April 21, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudanese government officials on Monday accused rebels loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar of committing “all kinds of immeasurable atrocities” when they recaptured Bentiu, the Unity state capital last week.
- The newly appointed caretaker governor of Unity State Joseph Montuil (Photo: Larco Lomayat)
Joseph Nguen Monytuil, the state’s caretaker governor told Sudan Tribune in an interview that what he witnessed had never ever occurred in the history of the Neur ethnic community. Not even his personal aides were reportedly spared by the rebels.
"What happened after the rebels of Riek Machar entered Bentiu town had never occurred in the history of our community? Some innocent civilians who could not run away when they [rebels] came and thought they would not be killed because they were members of the same community were executed, heartlessly," said Monytuil.
"Not even single person had survived from those who did not run. Only those who run into the UN [United Nations] camp in Rubkona survived. Everything has been destroyed", he added.
The caretaker governor, during the exclusive interview, also wondered what the rebels wanted to achieve with the mass killings, looting and destruction of key infrastructure every time they took control of certain areas from government troops.
“I really do not know what they [rebels] want to achieve with this destruction and mass killings of innocent civilians. I don’t know the objective of this rebellion. They killed even their own people, their own relatives. They destroy public infrastructure. I am told people who did not go to receive them when their leaders entered the town after our forces withdrew were killed", asserted the governor.
He further said most of those killed were accused of either being his supporters or were seen as loyal to President Salva Kiir and his leadership.
"They[rebels] accused them of being my supporters and the president. They have committed immeasurable atrocities in their own communities," Monytuil told Sudan Tribune, adding that "Those who came are from the area".
South Sudan army (SPLA) spokesperson, in a separate interview, also accused the rebels of having committed “all kinds of atrocities” during last week’s attack.
“They [rebels] have committed all kinds of atrocities. When they entered the town, we are told that they went straight to the hospital and removed all those fled there and killed them. They did exactly what they did in Bor and Malakal. They killed sick people in the hospital. They raped and killed women. The elderly were killed. All the foreigners were killed", Phillip Aguer told Sudan Tribune.
He added: "They did not leave anybody when they entered".
The UN mission in the country said when rebel forces captured Bentiu on 15 and 16 April, they searched several places where hundreds of South Sudanese and foreign civilians had taken refuge and killed hundreds of them after determining their ethnicity or nationality.
"These atrocities must be fully investigated and the perpetrators and their commanders shall be held accountable", Raisedon Zenenga, the officer in charge of the human rights department said in a statement issued Monday.
Zenenga reminded the parties of their respective obligations to protect civilians and called on them to immediately stop the targeting of innocent, unarmed civilians, and to respect the cessation of hostilities agreement they both signed in January.
On 15 April, the top human rights officer said, several Nuer men, women and children were killed at Bentiu hospital for allegedly hiding and declining to join their tribemates who had gone out to cheer the SPLA in Opposition forces as they entered the town.
“Individuals from other South Sudanese communities, as well as Darfuris, were specifically targeted and killed at the hospital. On the same day, the SPLA in Opposition forces entered the Kali-Ballee Mosque where civilians had taken shelter, separated individuals of certain nationalities and ethnic groups and escorted them to safety, while the others were killed. More than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and over 400 wounded at the Mosque," Zenenga noted in the statement.
"At the Catholic Church and at the vacated WFP compound, SPLA in Opposition soldiers similarly asked civilians who had taken refuge there to identify their ethnic origin” it added.
The world body further said its mission, between 15 and 17 April, extracted hundreds of civilians who were facing threats of violence in several places in Bentiu and Rubkona where they had taken refuge.
"Over 500 civilians, including many wounded, were extracted from the Bentiu hospital and other places, while thousands were escorted as they walked to the UNMISS base", is noted, adding that it is currently protecting over 12,000 civilians in its base.
REBELS DISMISS CLAIMS
But Hussein Maar Nyuot, a former deputy governor-turned rebel spokesperson told Sudan Tribune their forces only target government soldiers, not innocent civilians.
“This is not true. Our forces don’t do that. How can they [rebels] do that while they rebels are fighting for them [civilians]? They are fighting to free them from the bondage and sufferings introduced by the government of Salva Kiir. These allegations do not reflect any trust but clear fabrications by the government which had forced the United Nations to report what suits their interest." Nyuot exclusively said Monday.
"Our forces fought the government soldiers which I suspected to be the ones the United Nations is reporting to be civilians. Some of them (government soldiers) could not flee in time and did not want to surrender”, he added.
The rebel official further claimed it was against their culture to kill innocent civilians.
"What is being alleged is not part of the culture of our forces. They operate under strict instructions and clear directives. They are very discipline and operate with clear rules of engagement. They engage the targets, who do not include civilians. It is the government forces that do that," Nyuot observed.
"What happened in Bor is a clear testimony. That is part of their culture," he added.
The rebel spokesperson also claimed what happened in Bor when armed youth attacked a UN based "reflects the intention of the government of Salva Kiir to exterminate a certain tribe," which is what our forces are resisting.