S. Sudan parliament summons security ministers over W. Equatoria’s rebellion
May 26, 2015 (JUBA) - South Sudanese parliament on Tuesday summoned the minister of defense Kuol Manyang Juuk along with the minister of interior and minister of national security in the office of the president over the new rebellion in Western Equatoria state.
South Sudanese MPs stand during a parliamentary session in Juba on August 31, 2011 (AFP)
Spokesperson of the South Sudanese army (SPLA), Colonel Philip Aguer, on Monday revealed formation of a new rebel group in the state of Western Equatoria, apparently in an attempt to justify the deployment of the government troops in the area after reports quoting the opposition fighters claimed to have carried out the attacks on government soldiers in the area.
He said the armed youth who previously organized themselves to chase out pastoralists from the state turned into rebel forces targeting the government.
But Western Equatoria state information minister Charles Barnaba Kisanga denied in a statement on Tuesday there was rebellion in the area as the army announced.
He said that the circumstances under which the county’s executive director, John Cleopa, was killed could not be blamed on the rebels because he was in entourage of commissioner with security forces all around when they were inspecting the scene of the night attack on the group of SPLA.
“It seemed one member from the security forces moved a bit aside and opened fire killing the executive director and fire was also directed at the commissioner Hassan Bhakeit, who had to duck escape the bullets and even his car was later hit,” he said.
He inquired how shooting could be directed by rebels at only civilians in the group when army and police were all around them. Earlier, some state officials blamed the killing of Cleopa on government soldiers.
Armed youth commanded by Colonel Wesley Weluba stormed and captured Mundri town on Friday but government sent reinforcement on Saturday and captured it.
The parliament summoned the security officials to explain what transpired in the state which led to the death of officials and capture of the county headquarters.
Juba admits new rebel group captured Mundri town on Friday
May 24, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese army (SPLA) and state officials have admitted that a new rebel group has emerged and captured Mundri town in Western Equatoria state last Friday despite previous denials and contradictions surrounding the situation in the area.
- The South Sudanese army (SPLA) spokesperson, Phillip Aguer (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Although South Sudanese army could not comment at the time on the claims, state officials immediately dismissed the rebel assertions of the capture of the town saying the situation was fully under control. They said only a group of “unknown” gunmen attacked SPLA soldiers who were trying to go to Lakes state using Maridi road.
But SPLA spokesman, Colonel Philip Aguer, has confirmed that a rebellion had emerged in Western Equatoria against president Salva Kiir’s government.
“There is a new rebel movement in Western Equatoria state. Security reported that somebody called Charles Balogore under Wesley Waluba [leads rebellion],” he told Eye Radio on Monday.
Aguer said the group initially started to organize in defence of their land against pastoralists but have now turned into a rebel movement to fight the government. He did not however say what name they had given to the new movement.
Wesley whose the army spokesman mentioned to be leading the new rebellion and fight against the government was claimed by SPLM-IO as their field commander in the area.
Aguer said the new rebel commander in the area was a former member of parliament but lost elections in 2010.
“Wesley was a former honourable member of parliament of Western Equatoria but lost election in 2010 and formed a rebellion to chase away the cattle camps from western Equatoria. Now the cattle camps are not any longer in western Equatoria and he turned against the government,” Aguer further explained.
The rebel group, he said, was using weapons allegedly from the Sudanese army, adding that the security was investing the size of the rebel group in Western Equatoria state.
MUNDRI TOWN CAPTURED
The minister of information in Western Equatoria state, Charles Kisanga, has admitted that Mundri town was actually captured on Friday by a group of armed local youth who dislodged county authorities and took full control of the town contrary to earlier denial.
The minister said the state government lost control of Mundri town on Friday and only regained control of it on Saturday when more reinforcement from the SPLA forces and police recaptured it from the youth a day after.
“After the killing of John Keliopa [executive director] on Friday morning, the youths briefly expelled government troops and took control of Mundri on Friday. The army and police forces returned and took over the town on Saturday and they are now controlling the area,” minister Kisanga explained in an interview with Radio Tamazuj.
Kisanga however said the town was captured by local fighters, known as ‘arrow boys’, and not by rebel forces led by former vice president, Riek Machar.
He said the youth were only reacting to the killing of the executive director, slightly contradicting an earlier assertion by county officials that the executive director was killed while visiting a scene of an earlier attack on SPLA soldiers in the area by “unknown” gunmen.
Minister Kisanga could not explain who attacked the SPLA forces in the first place if not the rebels or local youth.
He also dismissed a rebellion by the youth in the state, contradicting what the South Sudanese army’s spokesman confirmed to be a rebellion. Kisanga also dismissed claims that the local armed youth were now allied to the South Sudanese rebels, saying they were only protecting the area.
“They don’t belong to the rebels. Those are local youths that are making protection of their areas,” he said.
Last week, James Gatdet Dak, spokesperson of the leader of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), Riek Machar, said their fighters allied with local youth captured Mundri on Friday under direct command of Colonel Wesley Welabe and under the overall command of Major General Elias Laku Jada.
“Colonel Wesley is one of us. He commanded the operations that captured Mundri town on Friday,” Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune on Monday.
He said the opposition forces had been organizing and making recruitments in the area, saying they led in the Friday capture of Mundri town, some 200km west of the national capital, Juba.