February 7, 2014 (KAMPALA) - A former Payinjiar County district administrator told Sudan Tribune on Friday that the South Sudanese army (SPLA) launched another attack on rebel positions in the southern part of Unity state.
- SPLA soldiers celebrate after successfully regaining the rebel-held town of Bentiu. (File photo: Reuters)
Dak Kueydor said a force of about 1,000 armed civilians and SPLA loyal to President Salva Kiir attacked the area from neighbouring Lakes state in order to raid cattle from the locals.
"The armed men and the SPLA forces came in three directions with an intention to loot our property" he said, adding that young men from the area had fought back with the few guns they had, as well as spears and other weapons.
The ex-government administrator, sacked in August 2010 after caretaker governor Joseph Nguen assumed office in July, said that the area’s youth had managed to repulse the attackers back into the bush killing over 100 of their assailants in their attempt to capture Nyal and Payinjiar headquarters.
Kueydor claimed that only five people died from their side with 10 others wounded.
"Our young men are still pursuing them in the bush, and this will make a last lesson for those trying to destabilise our areas that live in peace," he said.
The ex-administrator further blamed young men from neighbouring Lake State for siding with government over what he described as a conflict between the leadership of South Sudan’s ruling party - the SPLM - and national army - the SPLA.
"Lake state people knew our youth’s position in terms of fighting; now they have begun attacking our position yesterday. They should not regret later on, because they are the one who have started hostilities within our borders", said Kueydor.
South Sudan’s rebels - the SPLM/A in Opposition - also accused the SPLA of launching an attack in Payinjiar county despite ceasefire agreement. Both sides have been accused of violating the ceasefire deal, brokered by East African mediators in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Talks are due to resume on Monday, but the rebels have warned that the failure release the four remaining political prisoners and the ongoing presence of the Ugandan military, which has been fighting alongside the SPLA, could scupper the talks.
Peter Riek Gew, a rebel spokesman in Unity state, told Sudan Tribune on Friday by satellite phone that the government is showing no interest in the peace talks as they continue attacking rebel positions.
In series of interviews, residents of Payinjiar county told Sudan Tribune on Friday that the government’s actions show that it is unwilling to restore peace in the country despite saying that they will attend the talks without setting preconditions.
Dachieng Mayom a paramount a chief of Nyal payam described the recent mobilisation by government troops in Lake state to attack Payinjiar county as unwise.
"We have been working very hard to bring peace between neighbouring areas, and now the government has not seen war impact by sending youths to attack us. This time it will be worse in the next coming days in Lake state", said Mayom.
The border between Lakes state and Unity state has long been tense, even before the recent conflict erupted due to cross-border cattle raiding between youth from the Dinka and Nuer tribes respectively.
Despite starting as a political dispute the fighting, since its inception in Juba on December 15, has in many instances taken on tribal overtones, between Dinka supporters of President Kiir and the Nuer, many of whom are aligned to Riek Machar the former Vice President who is leading the rebellion.
Describing the conflict as "tribal" can be an oversimplification, however, as the head of the SPLA is Nuer and many of Machar’s political supporters are Dinka.
Chief Mayom also accused the government of targeting innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the internal differences of the ruling SPLM - the former rebel group that has governed the South since a 2005 peace deal with Khartoum.
Sudan Tribune was unable to reach Phillip Aguer, the spokesperson of the SPLA, despite repeated attempts.