Home | News    Sunday 17 May 2015

South Sudan rebels claim capture of Malakal as gov’t declares defection of allied commander


May 16, 2015 (JUBA/ADDIS ABABA) – The South Sudanese armed opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), led by former vice-president, Riek Machar, on Saturday said they have recaptured the strategic Upper Nile state’s capital, Malakal, along with a number of previously government-held towns in response to aggression by president Salva Kiir’s government.

A member of South Sudanese rebel patrols the streets of Malakal, on March 4, 2014 (Photo AFP/Andrei Pungovschi)

In a press statement released on Saturday, the office of the chairman of SPLM-IO announced that its forces under the overall command of General Johnson Olony captured the state capital of the oil-rich Upper Nile state.

“Our forces under the overall command of General Johnson Olony recaptured Upper Nile state’s capital, Malakal, on Saturday from pro-Salva Kiir’s forces. We are now in full control of the town and its surroundings,” Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Saturday.

He said during the heavy fighting which started on Friday evening, the rebel forces inflicted heavy casualties on the government’s troops.

“Seven tanks and five trucks mounted with heavy machine guns plus other military equipment were left behind by the forces loyal to Salva Kiir,” he added.

The opposition leader’s spokesman further added that other strategic towns including Anakdiar and Kodok were also captured by the rebel forces following the fall of Malakal. Fighting was also ongoing in Doleib hills.

He said defeated government troops from Malakal were being pursued towards Akoka and Palluj by the press time.
He also added that General Olony, who previously commanded a Shilluk militia group allied to the government, has switched side to the rebel movement and has become one of Machar’s senior commanders in the area.

Dak explained that fighting ensued inside Malakal when government forces attacked General Olony’s forces after failing to woo him back to Juba.

He also said some of the state government’s officials had surrendered to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) inside Malakal while others were running in disarray towards Akoka and Palluj.


Meanwhile South Sudanese army has confirmed that its previous allied commander, General Johnson Olony and his forces have defected from the government and joined the rebel faction led by former vice-president, Riek Machar, ending weeks of behind the door trickery negotiations through community leadership.

Colonel Philip Aguer, spokesperson of the South Sudanese armed forces, announced on Saturday in Juba that the general command in an emergency meeting on Saturday had declared General Olony a rebel and should be treated as such.

The army spokesman said the town came under attack by the rebel forces that assisted Olony’s forces which were already stationed in the southern part of the capital.

“Malakal has since yesterday been under attack by the rebels of Riek Machar. These rebels used military boats under Johnson Olony and there was no information from him (Olony) about how the rebels got them and used them to cross the river,” Colonel Aguer told reporters in Juba on Saturday.

“What the general command has learned is that it was Olony who transported the rebels to Malakal where they carried out joint attacks on SPLA forces. This is a clear indication that he is no longer with the government and he is now treated a rebel,” he said.

The military officer said the command exhausted all the avenues given to Olony to explain in details the events that took place in Malakal town between forces under his command and those of the government.

Government had been useing the ethnic Shilluk militia forces against the rebels dominated by the Nuer ethnic group since December 2013 when the war broke out. The former allies turned enemies when General Olony’s deputy was killed by government’s backed armed youth from the ruling Dinka’s ethnic group.

Aguer however denied that the town had fallen to the hands of coalition of armed dissidents, asserting that government troops have “managed to repulse the attacks on the town.”

Information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, also announced that Malakal town had come under attacks from the rebels allied to the former vice president Riek Machar assisted by Johnson Olony.

“The rebels of Riek Machar have attacked Malakal from all directions and the fighting is continuing even up to now. They are continuing with the offensives on the positions of our forces,” Lueth told reporters.

“It was Olony who transported the rebels across the river bank to Malakal. This means that he is not with the government. He has rebelled and will be treated as a rebel,” he added.

Upper Nile state’s information minister, Peter Hoth Tuach, told Sudan Tribune in a separate interview from outside Malakal town on Saturday that the town had come under attacks by a joint forces involving forces under the command of Johnson Olony and forces under the command of Gabriel Tanginye, who allied himself to the former vice president Riek Machar.

The minister did not however confirm or deny the capture of the state capital by the rebels and could not explain circumstances that forced him to flee and was speaking outside Malakal town.

Other sources from inside UNMISS compound in Malakal however told Sudan Tribune that the town came under full control of the rebel forces on Saturday.


The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which mediates the peace talks between the warring parties in South Sudan condemned the resumption of hostilities in Upper Nile state. It called on both sides to the conflict to immediately cease the fighting and accept peaceful dialogue.

IGAD which condemned the government for the renewed fighting in Unity state this week blamed the Friday’s incident in Malakal on the opposition faction led by former vice-president, Riek Machar.

“The IGAD Mediation is deeply frustrated by the spread of violence to Upper Nile and strongly condemns this serious violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) by SPLM/SPLA-IO and its allied forces and urges the warring Parties to immediately end the killings and all hostilities ravaging the country,” partly reads the statement released on Saturday.

It said preliminary reports filed by the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Team (MVT) revealed that fighting erupted in Malakal on Friday evening.

IGAD special envoys called on the warring parties to adhere to the commitment they made in the eyes of their people and the international community and resort to peaceful way of ending the crisis without further delay.


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  • 16 May 2015 22:19, by Eastern

    This is akin to ping pong; the belligerents still need to think about peaceful options to ending the conflict.

    repondre message

    • 17 May 2015 06:41, by Ayuiu Makuac Lam

      it is Simple, Johnson will be treated as rebels.
      let us wait a brand news today in Malakal, by government.

      repondre message

      • 17 May 2015 09:10, by Eastern


        The ’brand news’ won’t be any better. Let the guns fall silence and the citizens go on with their normal lives; war is costly, deadly and counter productive.

        repondre message

  • 16 May 2015 23:30, by Kim Deng

    Who can stop these Heroes (living Lion Gatwech Dual, Cobra Tanginye, and Tiger Gatdet Yak?) Let Dr. Riek waste his time in Addis Ababa with that weak peace talks, while these Heros deal with coward Jaang/Slaves and their allies in the field of death. http://nyamile.com/2015/05/16/south-sudan-spla-io-warns-civilians-to-evacuate-bor-jonglei-state/

    repondre message

    • 16 May 2015 23:45, by Rommel

      Kim Deng:

      How many times have you been lied to by rebel spokesmen? How many times have they said that they would take Bor only for it to turn out to be a complete lie? You are intellectually challenged (you are a Nuer after all) and so I don’t blame you for not using that feeble ’brain’ of yours. Does this ring any bells? http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article50746

      repondre message

      • 16 May 2015 23:55, by Lotodo Awino Odug

        Thank Rommell for the archive, I missed Tong Dut.

        repondre message

    • 17 May 2015 05:47, by Shadrack Nuer Machut

      Lies after lies since fro start of rebellion. It was days by Lou Nuer to reach Juba but all vain. Bor, Malakal & Bentiu of greater U. Nile ve been under govt control, but still more false claims. We need peace not senseless war of personal interests. Riek Machar lacks patience & ambition. There’s no psychology in engineering. This rebellion is good b’se it will teach & kill wrong participants & Ne

      repondre message

  • 17 May 2015 07:35, by lino

    Hahaaa! Poor government in Juba!!! What were they thinking when the General Chief of Staff ordered Gen. Johnson to report to Juba?
    The man is not foolish; he thinks and analyze situation.
    If Dr. John Garang executed what the Military Head Quarter in Khartoum in 1983 to report back from Bor we wouldn’t not have SPLM/A!!!

    repondre message

  • 17 May 2015 08:18, by hamil

    If there are lessons to learn at the end of this war, I would simply say both sides will achieve nothing the only lessons to learn are that South Sudan has lost huge number of lives, property destroyed, wasted huge amount of money to strengthen itself militarily against his own brother.

    repondre message

    • 17 May 2015 14:58, by Hardlinner

      It is total madness on both end. Perhaps civilians shouldn’t waste their lives on this war of greedy politicians. What different would it make whether forces of olony declare their defection inside malakal. Government is still gonna push them out. UN security council should do something about riek and kiir plus their foolish backers.

      repondre message

  • 17 May 2015 08:23, by hamil

    We we love this country and are really proud to be associated with it. First thing is to eliminate identifying ourselves along tribal lines because this is the main factor responsible for the mess we are going through now. Let us reflect back to 9th July 2011 when that beautiful flag shot high in the air and tore us apart from the Arab mistreatment.

    repondre message

    • 17 May 2015 08:28, by hamil

      When that flag was gently being raised tears could not stop flowing from my eyes at the freedom square. Where is that pride now? Where is that love and togetherness that helped South Sudan gain 99% of the votes to break away from Sudan? I knew this mess would happen I knew it on that day 9th July 2011 that we are entering a new dawn where fresh pain and suffering would hover over South Sudanese

      repondre message

  • 17 May 2015 08:48, by Maper

    Although it turned out not in favour of the government, it was a good plan to wait till Oliny made it clear he was rebelling because an immediate action against him would have caused controversy as Shilluk community may have cried foul.The narrative of coup staged by Dr Riek is not believed by many because the army foiled it before the actors announced it. The Burundi coup is not denied now becaus

    repondre message

    • 17 May 2015 08:53, by Maper

      ....because the Burundian army general who was leading the coup had ample time to say whatever he wanted and his supporters celebrated as much as they could before the coup was foiled.

      repondre message

  • 17 May 2015 19:21, by Agutthon

    This is what fighting by proxy looks like. Lul Ruai Koang passes through Bor today heading to Akobo, another proxy renegade like Olony.

    repondre message

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