July 23, 2014 (JUBA) – The governor of South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, Simon Kun Puoc, has swapped the positions of two officials in the state administration as fighting continues over control of the strategic town of Nasir.
- Soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) sit on a pick up truck during a patrol in Upper Nile state capital Malakal on 21 January 2014 (Photo: AFP/Harrison Ngethi)
In an announcement on state-owned radio on 18 July, Puoc named Nasir county commissioner Dak Tap as new state minister for physical infrastructure, replacing him with the former minister, Liech Bany.
No reason was given for the changes, although observers claimed the reshuffle was necessitated by views that Nasir would benefit from a county commissioner with extensive military background given the current situation on the ground.
It is thought the newly appointed commissioner will join the army during military engagements with rebel forces in order to raise morale levels, as well as reach out to the local population in a bid to stop the mobilisation of youth to join the rebellion.
Simon Gatwec Gatkek, an official from Upper Nile state, told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday, said that no prior information had been provided about the changes, although he said he had no objections to the reshuffle.
“We just hear so and so had been removed and so and so had been appointed. This is what we hear these days. There are no consultations,” he said.
“Maybe decisions are necessitated by the situation, which compelled the governor to exercise his constitutional prerogative on the basis of [the] doctrine of necessity,” he added, stressing he had no issue with the changes.
“When I say I did not have prior information, it that does not mean [that] I as an individual person should have been consulted,” Gatkek said.
The official said while he had never worked with the former commissioner in the same institution, he had come to know the two officials from a distance as they had always worked under the same government, describing the pair as good people.
“I have never worked with them in the same institutions, but my observation from the interactions when we meet is that they are good people. They love to serve our people and the country,” he said.
Renewed fighting between the South Sudanese army (SPLA) and rebel forces erupted in Nasir over the weekend, with both sides since claiming to be in control of the town, located south-east of the state capital, Malakal.
Rebels said on Sunday its forces had taken control of the town after repulsing government troops, claiming to have captured three government tanks and destroyed a number of trucks during the offensive.
In interview with Sudan Tribune prior to taking up his new position, Tap said that rebels had been driven out of the town after penetrating some areas on Sunday after crossing into the town from the south of the river.
Government troops and rebel forces aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar have been engaged in armed conflict since mid-December when violence flared amid rising political tensions in the ruling SPLM.
The latest outbreak of violence in Nasir has been condemned by world leaders, including UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, who called on pro-Machar rebels to immediately cease all offensive operations in Nasir and other areas, while also urging the South Sudanese government to resist launching any counter-offensive.