January 28, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) – The South Sudanese army (SPLA) and its allied northern rebels from Sudan’s Blue Nile state have been carrying out “systematic indiscriminate” killing of vulnerable civilians in the Upper Nile state capital, Malakal, following the recapture from the rebels of the strategic town, rebel sources say.
- SPLA forces in the flashpoint town of Malakal in Upper Nile state (Reuters)
The killing, allegedly by forces loyal to South Sudan president Salva Kiir, reportedly targets civilians perceived to support dissident rebels led by the former vice-president, Riek Machar.
Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune on Monday that pro-government soldiers and their allies were allegedly killings civilians in a manner similar to what happened when the conflict started out in the capital, Juba, on 15 December.
“We have been receiving disturbing reports from Malakal that the pro-Kiir forces have resorted to mass murder of civilians in Malakal. This is similar to the criminal episode Kiir’s so-called presidential guards carried out in the capital Juba when thousands of Nuer civilians were targeted, killed in cold blood”, Dak said.
He claimed that this time the “evil forces” in Malakal extended their criminal acts allegedly by targeting not only the Nuer civilians, but also members of Shilluk community and those from Greater Bor counties, particularly members of the Twic East and Duk counties.
“There has been door-to-door search of Nuer, Shilluk and Dinka Bor by these forces, majority of which come from the rebels of Southern Blue Nile across the border from the neighbouring Sudan. They indiscriminately drag out civilians from their houses and shoot them point blank, some church pastors were killed too”, he said.
He said Pastor Daniel Giel Pal, a former moderator of South Sudan Presbyterian Church in Upper Nile state, was among the spiritual leaders dragged out and killed.
Dak further said hundreds of women, children and men were believed to have been lynched and shot dead in the last few days allegedly by pro-Kiir forces in Malakal.
The same scenario, he stressed, occurred in Bor and in the Unity state’s capital, Bentiu, where the army allegedly burnt down to ashes most of the town, killing civilians who could not escape.
ARMY DISMISSES REBEL CLAIMS
The spokesperson for the South Sudanese army, Phillip Aguer, has dismissed the rebel claims as lies, saying they were committed to the cessation of hostilities deal signed last week.
“Whatever the rebels are saying is not true. The SPLA is mandated to protect its people, not kill them. I can tell you we are committed to the cessation of hostilities agreement reached between the two parties last week”, Aguer said .
KIIR NOT IN CONTROL OF MULTIPLE ARMIES
Meanwhile, the military spokesperson of the SPLA in Opposition, Brig. Gen Lul Ruai Koang, confirmed the Malakal incidences, accusing government’s troops and their allies of “committing crimes against humanity”.
Koang further claimed Kiir, who is also commander-in-chief of the army, and his key security ministers had lost control and command of the multiple armies supporting his grip on leadership.
“Kiir’s ability to exercise command and control over his forces and ministers had been greatly affected by the existence and presence on the ground of three armies, namely: his private and tribal army, national army and the Ugandan Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF)”, he claimed.
Currently, Koang said, the thousands of the UPDF troops deployed in South Sudan to fight for Kiir’s leadership are the ones in charge of the operations around in Greater Equatoria and Jonglei states, while Sudanese rebels are pushing for military operations in Unity and Upper Nile states.
“Kiir and his Chief of General Staff [Gen James Hoth Mai] are literally receiving operational orders from UPDF’s Colonel in charge of operations in the country and this partly explains the breakdown in command & control and in the chain of command,” he said.
The rebels also questioned why it was the Ugandan army and not their South Sudanese counterparts who first announced the recapture of Bor town from rebel forces a week ago.
“It was the UPDF spokesperson who first announced arrogantly that the Ugandan forces had recaptured Bor town”, Dak told Sudan Tribune.
The rebels have largely blamed the recent violations by the government of the cessation of hostilities agreement on the presence of the UPDF troops, which they directly accused of carrying out military offensives on the rebels positions near Bor, just few hours after the signing of the agreement in the Ethiopian capital.
The two sides accuse each other of violating the deal less than a week after it was reached.