January 13, 2014 (JUBA) - A senior military commander of forces loyal to South Sudan President Salva Kiir was on Sunday killed by rebels in an ambush along Juba-Yei road in Central Equatoria state.
- A government soldier stands guard as a South Sudanese flag flies in the background, at the memorial to leader John Garang, in Juba, on Monday January 13, 2014. (Photo AP/Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin)
Brigadier General Marac Akoon was killed along with his bodyguards at Bongu, about 12 miles from Juba. The senior officer was reportedly Juba bound in response to an order to report to the military’s general headquarters.
His body was flown to his home state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal on Monday, where a huge, but angry crowd predominantly senior members of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the area paid their last respects.
"Comrade Marac Akoon was not only an accomplished officer, was a great man. He was quiet, peaceful and someone who loves this country. It is therefore unfortunate that he had died in a senseless war. His death pains a lot", former Aweil North county commissioner, Brigadier General Deng Thiep Akok told Sudan Tribune on Monday from the capital, Aweil.
Akok, previously a member of parliament at South Sudan National Legislative Assembly, said the way Akoon was killed indicated that the attack was a planned assassination.
"There was no fighting. It was a surprise attack”, he said.
The spokesperson of the South Sudanese army (SPLA) Colonel Philip Aguer confirmed the incident and said government forces were preparing to prevent stump out rebels in Central Equatoria.
The incident comes a week after SPLA Gen. Abraham Jongroor was ambushed and killed by anti-government forces as the army battled to recapture the rebel-held town of Bor in Jonglei state.
Fighting began in Juba on 15 December between members of the Presidential Guard after weeks of tension between members of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
The spokesperson for the rebels in Unity state, Peter Riek Gew, told Sudan Tribune on Monday that their rebel-allied forces carried out the Juba-Yei road attack.
On Friday, the rebels were forced to withdraw from Bentiu, the capital of Unity state having held the key town since 21 December when the army fourth division commander Maj. General James Koang rebelled against forces loyal to Kiir.
Gew denied that the rebels in Unity state were being pursued by the government or that they had been forced to cross into neighbouring Sudan, claiming that their forces were "ready to retake the town any time."
Peace talks between government and the rebels are being mediated by regional from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Both sides are being urged to reach a deal to cease hostilities to prevent the world’s newest nation falling into civil war.