December 31, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan announced on Tuesday that its is stopping commercial activities and air travels to areas the country where the army is fighting rebels that have defected over the last two weeks of conflict.
The South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement that for the"for the safety of the passengers and the staff of the commercial flight operators which goes to Bor, Panyagor, Akobo and all other areas, had been stopped until further notice. We regret for inconveniences this note may cause to the clients of the airline operators."
The statement did not elaborate on what prompted the decision, although it could be linked to reports that, Bor, the Jonglei state capital had once again fallen to armed forces loyal to the former vice president Riek Machar.
Bor fell to forces under the command of Peter Gadet Yak on 18 December after he defected from the eighth division of the South Sudanese army (SPLA). Gadet’s defection followed reports that members of his Nuer tribe were being targetted in the capital, Juba, following an alleged attempted coup on 15 December.
The SPLA retook Bor on 24 December but on Tuesday South Sudan’s information and broadcasting minister Michael Makuei said fighting for Bor was ongoing and that the rebels had advanced towards the centre of the town.
Colonel Philip Aguer, the SPLA’s spokesperson did not comment on the situation to Sudan Tribune but multiple officials and residents of Bor town have confirmed that government forces are clashing with a group of armed civilians known as the White Army.
The White Army predominantly consists of members of Lou Nuer and Gawaar sections of the Nuer ethnic group - South Sudan’s second largest tribe.
With no direct command, the group often exploits political and military differences within established institutions to take revenge for previous communal clashes, which usually occur over local resources, including cattle theft, land or access to water and pastures during dry seasons.
The rebellion has also taken control of Unity state, as well as parts of Upper Nile state. The UN says that over 1,000 people have died and more than 180,000 people displaced by the fighting.
AIRLINES CEASE OPERATIONS
South Supreme airline has confirmed it is ceasing operations to Jonglei state but added that it remains operational in all the other areas of South Sudan except Unity state and some parts of Upper Nile state.
"South Supreme airline is operational in the whole country except areas where we have been advised by the Civil Aviation Authority", Ayii Duang Ayii, executive director of the company said.
Ayii says his airline is still flying from South Sudan to Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.
In the first days of the conflict Juba International Airport was closed but since then thousands of foreign nationals and South Sudanese have fled the country. But many people are still struggling to leave the country.
"I want to take my small son and wife to Uganda, but it’s becoming difficult getting a ticket. People are scrambling to buy for tickets," Dominic Samuel, told Sudan Tribune.
Samuel, who is from Western Equatoria state and works for a relief organisation in Jonglei said that he was struggling to buy a ticket for his family because of the exorbitant cost.
"The politicians are making life difficult for us. Now the ticket you could get at the cost of 150 dollars is now 500 dollars and there are people willing to pay. So we are forced to buy it," he said.
Samuel says he fears using road transport because of security reasons and high number of traffic accidents in South Sudan due to poor roads and reckless driving. Some drivers he said were driving faster than normal in the hope of making many trips while people are still struggling to leave South Sudan.
"My son is small and the mother is expecting as you can see. She can’t travel by road," he said.