December 23, 2013 (BENTIU) - The commissioner of Mayom county in South Sudan’s Unity state told Sudan Tribune on Monday that the area was completely under the control of forces from the national army who defected last week.
- Map of South Sudan’s Unity State.
Commissioner Peter Dak Khan’s comments come in response to a statement by former rebel group the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), who claimed that division four of the South Sudanese army, under defected commander James Koang was not in control of Unity state.
After days of tension in Unity state, Koang defected on Friday evening accusing members of the fourth division’s tank unit of trying to kill him.
On Saturday declared himself the military governor of Unity state after ousting the incumbent, Joseph Nguen Monytuil.
Koang announced on Saturday that the cabinet had been sacked. However, he appointed a new cabinet and reinstated Khan as the commissioner of Mayom county. He had been relieved the day before by Monytuil.
Khan described Gordon Buay’s statements denying that Koang’s forces were in control of Unity state as propaganda and criticised the SSLA’s "baseless" warning that it would retake the state capital, Bentiu, from Koang’s forces if he did not surrender with three days.
Mayom county is currently quiet and secure, Mayom said.
The SSLA’s forces in the area have not yet been integrated into the SPLA. Khan said that the SSLA had around 200 combatants in Mayom, rather than the 5,000 as claimed by Gordon Buay.
Khan said that South Sudanese who had killed their brothers on the basis of their ethnicity had betrayed the young nation. The figure of 500 dead has been used since the first few days of the fighting, which began in Juba last week when soldiers from the Presidential Guards clashed in contest circumstances.
President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar and others of planning a coup but they all deny this. Many senior leaders have been detained but Machar remains on the run and now claims to be leading a rebellion against Kiir.
The commissioner told Sudan Tribune that people in the area, who are mainly from the Nuer ethnic group, had become angered by reports that their relatives had been targeted in Juba during after the fighting began on 15 December.
Khan said that young men from Mayom were ready to protect the county if youth from other states tried to attack Unity state.
Despite the turmoil of the last few days Sudan Tribune witnessed the resumption normal business in Bentiu and Rubkotna towns with traders opening shops.
The fourth division commander, James Koang, has repeated that his forces are ready to protect the people of Unity state.
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