December 26, 2013 (Rumbek) - Warrap state’s ministry of health has reported that 50 soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) have arrived in Twic county, seeking treatment.
- A wounded soldier from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) lies on the ground on 21 April 2012 (Photo: ANP/AFP)
According to the ministry, the soldiers sustained gunshot wounds while serving in the SPLA’s division four in Unity state, where their commander, James Koang Chuol, split from the army on Saturday, joining anti-government forces under the command of former vice-president Riek Machar.
Warrap’s minister of health, Paul Dhel Gum, said that Twic county hospital had admitted 30 wounded soldiers, while another 20 had been referred to Kuacjok hospital, where they are undergoing treatment for gunshot wounds.
Dhel said that dissident troops under Koang had been attempting to disarm the soldiers in question when they opened fire on the group. The wounded soldiers managed to flee and began arriving in Twic between 24-26 December.
Dhel said neither the Twic nor Kuacjok hospitals had received civilians seeking treatment, although more soldiers are expected to be admitted, as conflict sweeping the country turns increasingly violent.
Violence erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, on 15 December following clashes between members of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups.
The violence came amid severe tensions between senior members of South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM) following the dismissal of the country’s cabinet, including the vice-president, Riek Machar.
President Salva Kiir, who hails from the Dinka tribe, has accused Machar, a Nuer, and his supporters of orchestrating a coup attempt to overthrow his government.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other sources have reported that some of the fighting in Juba targeted citizens on the basis of their tribe, with violence spreading to Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states.
The UN says that over 1,000 people are believed to have died as a result of fighting in Unity state, with 16 oil workers killed last week in an ethnic-related attack.
Koang, who declared himself Unity state’s new governor on Saturday, stressed the defection of the army in Unity state, where most of the population is from the Nuer ethnic group, was sparked by anger over reports of mass killings of civilians from their community in Juba.
Dhel, meanwhile, has called on Juba to provide assistance to help local hospitals deal with the influx of injured.
“We are still expecting the arrival of more soldiers from the border of Unity state. I am requesting our national ministry of health to support our state hospital with antibiotics and fluid injections to rescue the situation, which seems to likely increase due the bad security situation in Unity state”, Dhel said.
“Our national government must treat our request as an urgent matter to save lives of our gallant soldiers who sacrificed their lives in defending the sovereignty of our nation”, he added.
Dhel has blamed the international media for misrepresenting the situation in South Sudan as an ethnic conflict, rather than as a political power struggle.
“Our state is very peaceful; we try to protect all Nuer civilians who are serving under various sections within our state”, said Dhel, adding that the international community must continue to recognise South Sudanese as one community and not along tribal lines.
“We believe - as [the] Warrap state government – [that] South Sudan is not ready for any violence - neither politically or socially - we need peace, and we are one citizen serving this nation”, he added.
African Leaders from member countries of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) are due to hold a special summit in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Friday to discuss ways to resolve the South Sudan crisis.