January 11, 2014 (NAIROBI) – The Sudanese Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has dismissed statements by South Sudanese rebels accusing it of participating in the recapture of Unity state capital Bentiu by troops from the South Sudanese army (SPLA).
- A picture taken on 2 July showing some fighters of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement in undisclosed area in South Kordofan (Photo JEM)
The spokesperson for the rebels in Unity state, Peter Riek Gew, on Friday admitted that the SPLA retook control of Bentiu and accused once again Sudanese rebels of participating in the fighting alongside the SPLA forces loyal to president Salva Kiir.
Gew told Sudan Tribune on Friday from the outskirts of Bentiu town that a huge heavily armed force composed of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and armed civilians from Pariang County (inhabited by Dinka) stormed the city on Friday and retook it.
“The force that recaptured Bentiu is a combination of predominantly JEM rebels, Arab nomads, Pariang county armed civilians and elements from the SPLA”, he said.
The rebels claim that while their forces were engaging in Mayom the SPLA army divisions coming from Warrap and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states, the SPLA troops backed by the Sudanese rebels attacked the city from the behind, breaking the resistance put by the police on the ground.
Reacting to these statements, JEM spokesperson Girbril Bilal said, "These claims are totally unfounded. The Justice and Equality Movement stands at an equal distance from the warring parties in the South Sudan".
"We renew our call again for the need to address the ongoing crisis in South Sudan through peaceful means , and we renew our willingness to mediate between the parties", he added in statements to Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
Bilal further said they have no troops in Bentiu or any other party in South Sudan reaffirming that all their fighters are in South and West Kordofan states fighting against the Sudanese army there.
The South Sudanese rebel have already accused JEM of fighting besides the SPLA forces loyal to president Kiir. Rebel Maj. Gen. James Koang Chuol who was controlling Bentiu accused o, 28 December 2013 the Sudanese group of crossing from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan into the SPLA controlled, Pariang county, after their supply route from the region was blocked.
In a report about the situation in the Unity state released on Saturday, the Small Arms Survey cited the accusations of Gen. Chuol against the Sudanese rebels, adding that aid workers at Yida camp for Sudanese refugees "reported seeing JEM vehicles moving south to Pariang on 27 December".
"It is unlikely that JEM will want to play a prominent role in the conflict in Unity given the precariousness of its position and the government of Sudan’s (GoS) frequent complaints about (South Sudanese) support for the Sudanese rebels. But it can be expected that JEM will attempt to ensure its supply-lines remain open" further reads the report.
Gew vowed that there troops would soon retake Bentiu, adding it is "just a matter of time before those Sudanese forces who have involved in our internal affairs and their SPLA elements are flushed out from Bentiu".