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Officials blame bureaucratic bungling for fall of Bentiu town

April 16, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s government is sharply divided over the recapture of Unity state capital Bentiu town, with top level military officers blaming officials at the ministry of finance and individuals close to the president for the failure to deliver military supplies.

Soldiers from the South Sudanese army patrol the streets in the capital, Juba, following the utbreak of violence in mid-December 2013 (Photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

Rebels aligned with former vice-president recaptured the strategic, oil-rich town on Monday after reportedly receiving support from foreign mercenaries.

A top military officer in the operations department at the general headquarters told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday said troops on the ground had been let down after funds needed to hire aircraft to deliver the supplies, including ammunitions, to Bentiu and Upper Nile state capital Malakal were not released in time.

“The people who are supposed to help in expediting the processes are those close to the president. They needed to have pushed those at the ministry of finance who were slow to act because they did not receive official instructions,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

“The moral of our forces was high, but they were let down by [the] lack of seriousness by those who should have acted,” he added.

Gordon Buay, the spokesperson for former rebel faction South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), which now fights alongside government troops after accepting a presidential amnesty, blamed the fall of the town on the leadership in Juba, calling on the president to investigate the “negligence” of government agencies.

According to Buay, soldiers under the command of Major General Puljang Mathews had pulled out of Rubkona without notifying other colleagues, allegedly due to a lack of ammunitions, allowing rebels to enter the town with little armed resistance.

“They (government troops) pulled out because they had no ammunitions but this mistake had been corrected and it is [just] a matter of time and it will be recaptured. Just give us few days to recapture the town,” said Buay.

He also confirmed that one of his colleagues, who he named as Maj-Gen Karlo Kuol, had been captured by rebel forces after running out of ammunition.

“I am really upset with the negligence of Bilpam. President Kiir should order an investigation,” Buay told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.