South Sudanese opposition claims control of border town


President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, makes an address on July 9, 2017, to government officials and memebers of the media at the State House in Juba, South Sudan.

JOHANNESBURG – The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), allied with former opposition leader Dr Riek Machar who is currently in exile in South Africa, has claimed it is in full control of Kajo-Keji, a border town located near South Sudan’s border with Uganda.

Lam Paul Gabriel, a deputy spokesman for the rebel group, has called for calm among the civilian population after clashes with National Salvation Forces (NAS) allegedly left 20 NAS soldiers dead, adding that SPLA-IO forces were cleaning the town and surrounding areas from threats, the Sudan Tribune reported.

READ: South Sudan&39;s Kiir pledges peace commitment

NAS, an ethnic nationalist rebel movement, aims to overthrow South Sudan President Salva Kiir. 

NAS leader, Lieutenant General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, formerly deputy head of government force logistics, resigned accusing Kiir of turning South Sudan into a “tribal army.”  Swaka and Kiir are from opposing tribal factions.

Hitherto, Kajo-Keji was under the control of Swaka.

“This NAS incursion in Kajo-Keji has caused so many civilian displacements and suffering. Schools, shops, residences and health facilities have been looted by their forces, and the established internally displaced people’s camps have been vacated due to fear of atrocities from NAS forces,” said Gabriel.

He further accused NAS forces stationed in Jelimo of failing to control the movement of pro-government forces from Bamure to Wudu, which allegedly led to the death of five civilians in Kinyiba.

The upsurge in violence follows a commitment by Juba to commit to a permanent ceasefire with various rebel groups.

Tens of thousands of people have died and more than two million displaced after political disagreements within South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM) led to a full-blown civil war, which broke out in December 2013.

Meanwhile, government troops deployed around the residence of the former South Sudanese army chief of staff Paul Malong have prevented the delivery of food and water to the general and his guards as tensions between the two rival forces in the capital Juba escalate.

Malong’s Wife Lucy Ayak released a statement on Sunday stating that heavily armed soldiers were blocking the main road leading to the residence and preventing vehicles moving in to bring supplies.

Ayak further accused government troops deployed outside the residence of stealing 35,000 Sudanese pounds (R74,500) from relatives who had left the residence to go shopping.

Tensions rose after Malong rejected a presidential order to disarm. He was subsequently arrested along with his guards.

He has been under house arrest since his sacking in May and replaced by his former deputy chief of general staff for administration and finance, General James Ajongo Mawut.