April 22,2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan government admitted on Tuesday that its forces had lost control of Unity state’s Mayom county to anti-government rebels led by the country’s former vice-president, Riek Machar.
The information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth told the United Nations-owned Radio Miraya that government troops "tactically withdrew" from the county and that it was a matter of time they would regain control of the strategically-located town.
“The so called SPLM in opposition forces have entered Mayom. They are now in the area, but it is just a matter of time and the SPLA forces will flush them out," he said.
The minister, however, gave no details on casualties involved while the army spokesperson, Phillip Aguer did not comment on the military situation in the county.
It remains unclear under what circumstances government troops pulled out of Mayom.
This is the first time a senior government official has openly confirmed that rebels control an area with observers and local residents expressing fears that the rebels could use Mayom as a base to launch an attack on neighbouring Warrap state.
Rebel leader Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak told Sudan Tribune on Monday that Mayom town fell to the SPLM-in-Opposition at about 7am local time.
Dak claimed that pro-government forces suffered heavy causalities during the clashes.
The latest incident came barely a week after the opposition forces recaptured Unity state’s capital, Bentiu, including the oilfields in the state.
Meanwhile, the rebels declared on Tuesday that its leadership had changed command with Peter Gadet Yak becoming Unity state’s military governor while James Koang Chuol assumes the overall rebel commander’s role. These changes allegedly resulted from resolutions of its just-concluded conference.