August 2, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese rebels led by former vice-president Riek Machar have accused the government of planning a major all-out offensive against their positions in the three states of the former Greater Upper Nile region.
- Rebel fighters aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar march in a village inside rebel-controlled territory in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state on 9 February 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
In a press release on Saturday, rebel military spokesperson Brig Lul Ruai Kaong said the government has made a plan to attack rebels positions in Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states amid the resumption of peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
He said the communications between senior government commanders which the rebels intercepted and confirmed by sources from the government headquarters in Bilpam has divided the country into “war zones” each under overall command of senior generals.
“The Government of the Republic of South Sudan is preparing for a total war against the rebels led by former vice-president Dr Riek Machar. Sources and intercepted radio messages from the Army’s GHQs-Bilpam barracks have revealed that the country has been divided into war zones each under overall command of a senior general as indicated below,” partly reads the statement by Koang.
The rebels spokesperson revealed the alleged plan in details in which senior army generals including the army’s chief of general staff, General Paul Malong Awan, will personally command the operations.
UPPER NILE STATE
For the oil-rich Upper Nile state, Koang claimed that massive offensive operations against the rebels in this state will be under overall command of Awan deputised by deputy chief of general staff for operations, Lt. Gen. James Ajonga and Sector Two commander Lt. Gen. Johson GonyBeliu.
Each general commanding a separate force would advance on rebel positions on three axis, he further explained.
Government forces amassed at Paloich oilfields under the command of chief of general staff will advance on the opposition positions in Mathiang, Longchuk, Maiwut and Pagak in Longchuk and Maiwut counties north east of Upper Nile State.
Another column, he further claimed, will advance on rebel positions in Baliet and Ulang counties and reinforce “loyalist forces” in Nasir town.
Koang further detailed that government forces amassed in Renk county, north of Malakal town, under the command of deputy chief of general staff for operations will advance on opposition positions at Manyo county on the western banks of White Nile River in Collo (Shulluk Kingdom). This force is tasked with responsibility of recapturing all areas held by the rebels on western bank up to Tonga.
Government forces amassed in Malakal town under the command of Sector Two Commander, according to the statement, will advance on rebels positions at Dolieb Hills in Panyikang county to recapture Fangak and Pigi counties in Jonglei state.
In a similar plan of offensive in Jonglei state, he said, government troops amassed at Bor town under the command of deputy chief of general staff for administration, Lt. Gen. Malual Ayom supported by Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) will move on rebel positions on two axis.
A combined force, he further alleged, comprising of units from SPLA and UPDF will advance on SPLA’s positions in Twic East and Duk counties with the ultimate goal of recapturing rebel strongholds of greater Lou-Nuer counties of Uror, Nyirol and Akobo in the east of state capital, Bor.
Another combined force will reinforce besieged government troops in Ayod and recapture surrounding villages, saying 40 PToyota land cruisers carrying military supplies had already left Juba for Bor.
In oil-producing Unity state the rebel spokesperson said government troops had amassed at Abiem-Nom county, west of the state capital, Bentiu, under the overall command of Sector One commander, Lt. Gen. Jok Riak and will advance on rebel positions on two axis.
Loyalist forces supported by local SSLA militias under the command of Maj. Gen. Mathew Pul Jang will advance on rebel positions in Mayom, Koc and Mayendit counties south of Bentiu town.
A separate force will move on opposition positions in Rupkoni, Guit and Leer counties east of Bentiu town. All the two forces will converge on Panyijar county in southern-most tip of the state.
The rebels spokesperson said the leaked plan also revealed that all ground operations by the government forces in the three states will get air support from UPDF Air Force.
“The military leadership of SPLA in Opposition has decided to publish this detailed operational plans in advance in order to inform the people of South Sudan, IGAD mediation team, IGAD countries, region[al] and the international community about this looming massive offensive operations against our positions in Greater Upper Nile Region,” the statement said.
“These imminent large scale operations are aimed at accomplishing government’s mission of recapturing all territories it had lost using military means rather than pursuing peaceful options in Addis Ababa,” said the rebel military spokesperson, adding that the SPLM in Opposition reiterated its commitment to all agreements signed but reserved the right of fighting back in self-defence once attacked.
In a press conference last month, Awan admitted for the first time that the government was responsible for attacking rebels’ positions in order to recapture more territories prior to 9 May agreement in Addis Ababa between the two rival leaders.
Rebel officials say if the latest revelation is true, the government might want to regain control of territories under the rebels control before any agreement on transitional government is reached in Addis Ababa.
IGAD-mediated peace talks are scheduled to resume on Monday and discuss the future governance and an interim leadership. Opposition and civil society groups are also expected to take part.