April 23, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA/JUBA) – Conflicting reports emerged on Wednesday evening as rebels loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar claimed to have seized control of Renk in Upper Nile state, while the army and legislators said a small revolt had been quelled.
- SPLA soldier stands next to a machine gun mounted on a truck in Malakal town, on December 30, 2013 (Photo Reuters/James Akena)
“Yes, reports from the field confirm that our gallant forces this morning [Wednesday] liberated Renk town. [President] Salva Kiir’s soldiers and their foreign allies are on the run and in disarray after suffering painful defeat in the area,” said Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, on Wednesday when reached by Sudan Tribune.
Dak further added that in the clashes the government’s forces suffered heavy casualties in terms of human and material losses, they were running towards Maban and Paloich areas to the south-east.
“A number of tanks and other military vehicles were destroyed or captured in the clashes,” he added, without giving further details.
Renk is the main town north of the country’s important oilfields of Paloich. Observers say its capture by the rebels could expose the oilfields to imminent attacks.
Rebels earlier said they wanted to control all the country’s oilfields "in order to deny Salva Kiir from using the oil revenues to finance his war and hire foreign mercenaries".
LIMITED INTERNAL MUTINY
However, Renk county commissioner Kur Chuai Deng and the Major General Garang Mabil, who is part of the SPLA command force in the area, confirmed there was a split within government forces in the area, but that it was quickly contained.
Mabil told Sudan Tribune by telephone that the rebels informed the Nuer, member of the SPLA based in Renk of their attack and encouraged them to join their ranks
"When they heard this [call], they decided to turn guns against their own colleagues, thinking that they would capture the town," Mabil said.
However, "Our forces under the command of comrade Stephen Buoi, managed to contain the situation," he added.
Deng Chol, an MP from Renk county, also told Sudan Tribune that rebels attempts to take control of the town by instigating internal revolt was crushed by the government forces.
"There was an attempt by the rebels to take control of Renk town this morning using soldiers within our fighting forces but it was quickly subdued by our gallant forces. It did not last long", said Chol.
Sudan Tribune was unable to independently verify which of the two rival forces was in control the town.
Fighting has intensified this week as both rebels and government forces accuse each other of violating the cessation of hostilities agreement.
Machar forces recaptured Bentiu and Mayom while the mediation adjourned the peace talks for another week.