Former Vice President Riek Machar addressing UN in 2012. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
[South Sudan Crisis]
Editor’s Note: The following report is from Sudan Tribune. Even as a delegation representing South Sudan President Salva Kiir and one representing former Vice President Riek Machar are set to start peace talks in Addis Ababa, both sides claim gains on the ground. Kiir’s army claims it’s marching towards Bor, the South Sudan city and capital of Jonglei state, 120 miles north of Juba, and now in the hands of forces loyal to Machar. The former vice president on the otherhand claims that his forces repulsed Kiir’s army and is marching on the South Sudan capital city of Juba itself. The Sudan Tribune report follows:
January 3, 2014 (NAIROBI) – The three-week old rebels in South Sudan said they were advancing on the capital, Juba, as fighting between rival politicians intensifies further.
“Today our forces crushed the amassed government soldiers at their stronghold in Jameza on Juba road. Our troops broke their stronghold and are pursuing them as they flee back to Juba. Juba will fall soon,” South Sudan former vice-president Riek Machar told Sudan Tribune by phone Friday.
However, the government army’s (SPLA) spokesperson, Philip Aguer, said the government’s forces were instead moving to recapture Bor from the rebels.
“We have enough forces to recapture Bor…We will take it in the next 24 hours,” he said. Aguer, however, warned the media not to broadcast news about the rebels advance, saying this would cause panic among the populations in the capital.
Fighting erupted on 15 December in Juba when presidential guard units clashed. The former minister of higher education, Peter Adwok Nyaba, said the violence started when elements from the presidential guards of Dinka ethnic group attempted to re-arm after they were disarmed together with their Nuer colleagues, prompting suspicions and misunderstandings.
Others also speculated that the Dinka elements were planning to arrest former vice president, Riek Machar after disarming their counterparts from the Nuer ethnic group to which Machar belongs.
The fighting then pitted the Dinka loyal to President Salva Kiir and the Nuer loyal to Machar and spread further on tribal lines when civilians were first targeted in Juba based on their ethnicity.
The violence also spread to the other parts of the country with the rebels now controlling much of the oil-rich northern parts of the young nation.
After recapturing the strategic town of Bor, the capital of the country’s largest state in which is about 200kms from Juba, Machar claimed that his forces were matching towards Juba and “will capture it soon”.
The news about the rebels advance toward Juba caused a lot of panic in the capital.
The United States on Friday ordered its embassy personnel in South Sudan to leave the country in the wake of the deteriorating security situation.
“On January 3, 2014, there will be an evacuation flight arranged by the Department of State to the nearest safe haven country,” partly read an emergency statement issued.
But other government sources quietly admitted to Sudan Tribune that the rebels were truly advancing, adding that it was not, however, in the interest of the government to tell the truth about the military situation.
“Of course today on Juba-Bor road they have crushed the forces we mobilized to retake Bor. It was a disaster. But we will deploy again,” said the source that preferred anonymity.
He further explained that they lost several tanks and artillery weapons. He also said the government’s forces lost some senior military officers, which he did not want to name, when they fell into an ambush laid by the rebels.
For the rest of the report please see Sudan Tribune