July 6, 2014 (KAMPALA) – South Sudanese rebels have accused government troops of killing 37 civilians and setting fire to 437 houses in attacks on South Sudan’s Unity state over the weekend.
The attacks occurred in Riak and Mankien payams (districts) in Mayom county between Friday and Saturday.
State MP Peter Dak Khan, who has taken up arms against the government, told Sudan Tribune on Sunday, that the government is failing to abide by a peace protocol signed by both warring parties in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and is becoming an enemy of civilians in the country.
“Government troops are killing innocent civilians and taking away their properties, including cows and goats,” said Dak.
The lawmaker also accused government troops of raping women and girls in areas under their control.
He said the alleged atrocities and mistreatment of civilians in Mayom called into questions the legitimacy of the government.
“The government is claiming to protect civilians; meanwhile they are maiming and raping women,” said Dak by satellite phone from Unity state.
“How could we call this a government when they torture their civilian,” he added.
South Sudan has been mired in conflict for more than six months since a split emerged in the ruling SPLM, sparking violence across the country.
The fighting has pitted government troops loyal to president Salva Kiir, a Dinka, against rebel forces aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar, who hails from the Nuer tribe.
The latest round of fighting in Unity state broke out on Friday in Rubkotna county between members of the Dinka and Nuer tribes after the rape of a teenage girl. The accused, a captain from the national army’s (SPLA) fifth division who hails from the Dinka tribe, was shot dead, along with his bodyguards, by Brigadier Gen. Kerubino Mayuat, a Nuer commanding officer from Bentiu.
A source from the SPLA in Rubkotna told Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity that this is not the first time soldiers have been accused of raping women in the town.
He claimed the administration in the army is working to address provocative measures against civilians and prevent further incidents reoccurring.
“We will not allow this to happen as we are mandated as [a] national army to defend and protect civilians’ properties,” the source said.
Unity state capital Bentiu has been the scene of fierce fighting between rebels and government troops since the conflict erupted in mid-December last year.
The UN says both sides are responsible for committing grave human rights violations.