March 31, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s rebel leader, Riek Machar, has warned against deployment in the new country of what he said could be “hostile” forces from the member countries of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
- South Sudan’s rebel leader, Riek Machar, pictured inside rebel-controlled territory in Jonglei state on 1 February 2014 (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
IGAD, which currently mediate the peace talks, this month said it would deploy to South Sudan unconfirmed number of troops from four countries in the region to protect vital installations in South Sudan including the oilfields which Kiir’s government may not be capable of protecting from the rebels.
Uganda, an IGAD member state, has since December last year deployed thousands of troops to South Sudan initially to protect some of the installations in the country but ended up joining the government’s forces and fighting against the rebels.
Machar, the former vice president, turned rebel leader, however for the first time issued the strong warnings, when quoted in the media as saying the regional forces would be "fought" by the rebels should they attempt to deploy to fight alongside Salva Kiir’s government.
"The deployment would be hostile and treated the same as Uganda’s army fighting alongside South Sudan’s military. They have no right to deploy in our oil fields. If they want to colonize us we will fight them," the US-based Bloomberg quoted Machar as saying.
Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, however confirmed the statements attributed to his boss, saying the rebel leadership would not accept the deployment of the regional forces and repeat the Uganda’s scenario.
"Yes, the leadership has made it clear that the proposed deployment of the regional forces is unacceptable because it has the intention to travel the same hostile path Uganda has already travelled against us in the internal conflict," Dak told Sudan Tribune on Monday.
REBELS TO TARGET OILFIELDS
Dak also said the rebels’ intend to capture and control the strategic Upper Nile’s state capital, Malakal, and the oilfields in order to "deny Salva Kiir’s regime from using the oil revenues to buy weapons", adding this would also "force him to talk peace".
He added that Machar, the leader of the SPLM/A In Opposition, has always maintained his demand for president Kiir to step down in order to get a solution to the ongoing crisis in the country.
Currently the rebels claim to have controlled most of the oil-rich state, which provides more than 70% of the oil production in the country.
However, the government has always maintained confidence that it is capable of defending the oilfields from the rebels.
Analysts say if the threat posed by the rebels proves to be true, Juba government would face near economic collapse as 98% of the new country’s revenues come from the oil.