March 6, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s rebels led by Riek Machar said the government had not told the true story about the cause of the recent outbreak of violence among the army in the national capital, Juba, saying the dissent was caused by preferential treatment of the Ugandan Peoples Defence Force (UPDF) over the national army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
- An unidentified man sits in the gun turret while leading a convoy of armoured vehicles from both the South Sudanese government forces and the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in the streets of Jonglei capital Bor on 19 January 2014 (Photo: AP/Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin)
"New information has emerged indicating that the fighting was not only caused by a mere pay dispute as reported in the media. In fact, some units from the Presidential Guards and Commandos mutinied in direct protest against UPDF’s involvement and favours they receive at their expense," claimed the rebel’s military spokesperson, Brig Lul Ruai Koang.
Clashes occurred in Juba on Wednesday morning at a military barrack and resumed during the night between units of the Commando, leaving dozens dead and scores wounded.
Government officials said the violence was a result of salary payment dispute between members of the force.
An observer, told Sudan Tribune that the denial by the committee to pay those who were in the United Nations camp caused the shootings, adding the incident would have been avoided had the committee amicably addressed the issue.
"Also the rigorous system, specifically the requirement of individual beneficiaries to receive by themselves instead of third party angered some commanding officers because it appears they were benefiting from the previous system, which allows a commanding officer to receive for people he submitted their list to finance, some of which could be a makeup list of thousand soldiers," noted the observer.
But a verification exercise recently carried out to determine the actual numbers of soldiers on the payroll reportedly revealed some abnormalities within the system.
"It was found out more than half of the existing army were ghosts," he said.
Faced with fresh allegations that it was giving preferential treatment to Ugandan forces, the government resolved that the SPLA be given a three-month bonus pay at once.
"That means double payment in the salary of individual soldiers and officers. Say, for example, if a soldier was getting 1000 South Sudanese pound, this money is doubled to 3000 because it is three months bonus and paid at once." stressed the observer.
However, the rebel spokesperson, in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, said the revelations indicated that there was a built up dissent among the forces in disapproval of how the government was preferentially treating the foreign army from Uganda and private militias at the expense of the regular army.
"SPLA soldiers complained of being neglected and spent three months without being paid salaries as well as do not get food rations whereas their counterparts from UPDF get paid huge salaries, daily allowances, food rations and compensations in an event of death or injury," Koang further explained.
He also accused forces loyal to president Salva Kiir of allegedly turning their anger against Nuer officers, saying some Nuer generals loyal to the government were attacked at their residential area in Tongping while a number of innocent Nuer civilians lost their lives in an alleged targeted killings during Wednesday’s violence.
Senior officials of the government’s security sector, including the country’s defence minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk, have revealed that Juba was paying Kampala for the involvement of Uganda’s army (UPDF) in the over 10-week conflict.