June 5, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudan government has denied reports alleging that it planned to assassinate senior members of the rebel movement led by former vice-president Riek Machar, describing the claims as “unhealthy propaganda”.
The spokesperson for the South Sudanese army (SPLA), Colonel Philip Aguer, denied the existence of an assassination plot and said he had no knowledge of a plane reportedly confiscated by rebels on 2 June.
“I am not aware of this allegation. There is nothing as such. It is just part of a usual propaganda by these rebels, which is one of the strategies of fighting their war, but which is unhealthy propaganda,” Aguer told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.
He was reacting to a rebel statement issued on Thursday claiming its forces had foiled an assassination attempt on its senior command leadership.
Rebels claim they impounded a charter plane carrying the would-be assassin and pilot Philip Kipkoech Murgor, a Kenyan national, on its return to Lou Nuer areas inside Jonglei state following a meeting with government officials in the capital, Juba.
In its statement, rebel spokesperson on military affairs Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang claims the suspected would-be assassin was arrested after two pistols with silencers were recovered.
He alleges the suspect had been hired to execute the alleged plot against senior members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition.
Rebel commander for Jonglei state Maj.Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual and the White Army’s spiritual leader David Dak Kueth were among those allegedly being targeted for assassination.
Koang said the plot was successfully foiled by operatives from the movement’s National Intelligence, Combat Intelligence and Military Intelligence agencies.
The statement contains allegations that president Salva Kiir and several senior government officials, including foreign affairs minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin, were directly involved in the plot.
It is claimed several officials from Machar’s Nuer ethnic group allied to the government also took part.
“The overall government’s plan is to eliminate [the] top rebel political and military leadership,” Koang said.
He claimed that that assassin had confessed that the government had drawn up a hit list of rebel military and official figures that included Maj. Gen. Peter Gatdet, Unity state military governor Maj. Gen. Gabriel Tangiye, Upper Nile state military commander Maj. Gen. Gathoth Gatkuoth, Upper Nile state military governor Maj Gen. James Koang Chuol, former Unity state military governor Maj. Gen. Gabriel Duop Lam, Jonglei state’s military governor.
Presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny, meanwhile, has rejected the claims as “terrible lies”and said the government would release a detailed statement addressing the allegations shortly.
“There is nothing like that. It is a terrible lie,” he said in comments to Sudan Tribune on Friday.
Koang says its intelligence services had been monitoring the unusual and unauthorised movement of planes in recent weeks.
Rebels have since issued a warning to plane companies operating in the country, saying it forces were prepared to shoot down unauthorised flights entering its territories.
Sudan Tribune was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the claims made in the statement and no independent sources have come forward to confirm the veracity of the allegations.
Meanwhile, Aguer said rebel forces had resumed military activities in Unity and Upper Nile states last weekend and the beginning of this week, where they carried out bombings and attacks on SPLA positions.
He said Nasir and Mathiang in Upper Nile had been targeted, while Unity state’s Wangakai, located about 7km from the capital, Bentiu town, was attacked on Tuesday.