African Centre for Human Advocacy’s Report on Prevailing Situation in South Sudan

“People gather at a makeshift camp at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Juba Dec. 22, 2013”. Photo credit: AFP

1. Political Situation:

April 30, 2014 (SSNA) — Following the last reshuffle of the government of South Sudan on 23 July 2013, which resulted to the removal of the entire cabinet members including the Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny by President Salva Kiir Mayardit, tensions had abruptly flared up within the SPLM ruling party. Before his dismissal from the position of Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar and other senior SPLM members within the SPLM ruling party voiced concerns about the President Salva Kiir’s dictatorial way of handling the affairs of the state, where he absolutely used to take most important decisions singlehandedly without consulting the SPLM Political Bureau which is the highest political organ in the ruling party or the executive wing of the government where the Vice President was deputising him in the party. President Salva Kiir’s apparently manipulated the Interim National Constitution in his favour where he appoints or dismisses any member of the cabinets without consulting the Vice President as it was already stipulated in the constitution that the President would act in consultation with his Vice President.

However, President Salva Kiir has been promoting tribalism, nepotism, chauvinism, corruption, human rights violation etc., which are considered as parts of bad governance at any level of government all over the world during his eight years reign in South Sudan. In his turn, the former Vice President decided to challenge the President openly in the next general elections, which is supposed to commence in 2015, whereas President Kiir adamantly rejected such decision from his former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar and other SPLM senior members who were challenging him within the SPLM leadership. He did not want to be challenged by any member from the SPLM ruling party. When he saw a looming threat from the party colleagues, President organised his supporters to sabotage any move from the supporters of the former Vice President to challenge him in the upcoming elections. This becomes a wrangling within the SPLM leadership on who to run for elections. The former Vice President’s position was vigorously supported by majority of the SPLM political Bureau members and the masses all over the country that got tired of President Salva Kiir’s style of leadership, which favoured only few members from his own ethnic group, the Dinka who he placed in most of the key strategic positions in the government. They are the ones controlling the finance, security, foreign affairs etc., just to mention a few.

In addition to that, President Salva Kiir secretly recruited and trained an army numbering 15,000 soldiers that were drawn up inclusively from his own Dinka tribe, from two states of Warrap and Northern Bahr El Gazal as personal protection guards. He never trusted the SPLA regular soldiers to be guarded by him because majority of them are from Nuer tribe, which constituted 60% of the fighting force. During the first and second weeks of December 2013, SPLM supporters of the former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar which included 14 senior SPLM Political Bureau members staged two consecutive rallies in Juba where they demanded for democratic transformation within the SPLM ruling party to be urgently realized and translated into reality. This idea brought several thousands all over the capital Juba to Freedom Square to attend the two rallies in which subsequent press releases were issued afterwards to highlight their six points that include; 1. SPLM reform, 2. Economic reform, 3. Corruption eradication, 4. Strengthening relations with foreign countries, 5. Human Rights violations, 6. Tribalism, nepotism and chauvinism etc.,

During the last SPLM rally of 15 December, which was overwhelmingly attended by all SPLM government and opposing political leaders who rejected President Kiir re-elections as Chairman of SPLM, and vied for Dr. Machar to take over the chairmanship of the party instead of the incumbent SPLM Chairman and President. The tension became high in which the President Salva Kiir hastily ordered his close associate and trustful General Marial Cenouer who was in charge of 15,000 (soldiers) so-called Presidential Guards based at Luri garrisons in southeast of Juba to immediately disarm the SPLA Nuer soldiers within the Presidential Guards in the evening hours. At around 10.00 PM, on 15 December 2013, the fighting ensued within the Presidential Guards of Dinka and Nuer members from SPLA in which several soldiers were reported to have been killed on both sides. SPLA mutinous soldiers briefly captured the Tiger Headquarters, which hosted the Presidential Guards. Dr. Riek Machar and other associate members escaped along with him to the bushes of South Sudan and the direction to Bor.

The 11 SPLM political leaders who were associated with Dr. Riek Machar were detained on the following day of 16 December, in Juba prison where they remained there for some months. Towards the end of January, 7 of them were released through SPLM – In Opposition, IGAD and Troika’s interventions and were flown to Kenya to participate in the ongoing peace talks in Addis Ababa. But they chose to remain as separate block negotiating on their own as a faction instead of siding with the SPLM/A – In Opposition that advocated for their unconditional release from jail. The other 4 political detainees including the SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amoum remained in jail and have recently been released in this April, by the government in Juba and are still confined inside the country. The government in Juba is denying them opportunity to participate in the peace talks in Addis Ababa while their presence in the talks is very instrumental indeed. The IGAD and Troika peace mediators in Addis Ababa should exert more pressures on the government in Juba to fully release them and allow them participations in the peace talks.

2. Human Rights Violation:

As mentioned above that on the 15 December 2013, a group of SPLA soldiers from Presidential Guard mainly from Dinka attempted to disarm their colleagues from the Nuer tribe who were in the same Presidential Guards. Unfortunately, the SPLA soldiers from Nuer refused the disarmaments and instead their rivals from SPLA Dinka started the shooting which result to the captured of Tiger Presidential Guards Headquarters by the SPLA Nuer soldiers. They occupied the said military garrison until the following day when SPLA combined forces from different units came and recaptured the Tiger Headquarters from the mutinous soldiers of Nuer elements. Dr. Riek Machar and his wife Mrs Angelina Teny who were prime targets of being implicated by President Salva of being behind the rebellion escaped the government planned onslaughts for hiding along with former Minister of Environment General Alfred Ladu Gore and former Governor of Unity State General Taban Deng Gai.

The three SPLM leaders and Madam Angelina Teny apparently escaped to the bushes for their own lives and made their way to Greater Upper Nile where the Nuer civilians known as “White Army” and some SPLA defectors from other garrisons mostly from Nuer when they heard that wanton massacres was being carried out by some SPLA of Dinka soldiers in Juba against the innocent Nuer civilians in Juba came to their rescues. In fact, Dr. Riek and his wife left behind most of their personal bodyguards. They were left behind in their official government residential quarter in Juba on the night of 15 December 2013, when the fighting erupted in Juba. On 16 December, the infamous Nuer massacre took place in Juba and lasted for three days up to 19 December 2013, by their Dinka attackers who masqueraded as Presidential Guards inside Juba town. They summarily executed over 10,000 civilians including 35 personal bodyguards of Dr. Riek Machar who were first disarmed by the government soldiers and later killed in cold blood when the government soldiers (SPLA) smashed a two storey government building used by the former Vice President with military tanks. Inside the same house it was sheltering over hundred civilians most of whom were closed or distant relatives of former Vice President and his dear wife who an emergency sought refuge there. Unfortunately, military tanks crashed all of them and this was the most gruesome massacre ever conducted in the history of South Sudan in one town since South Sudanese fought successive wars with Khartoum regimes in the past. The UNMISS and did not revealed the exact figures of those Nuer killed in Juba for fears of reprisals from that notorious government in Juba.

The UNMISS put the figures of the dead to 500 hundred persons only while the government soldiers conducted house-to – house searches for three days from 16 – 19 December, where they collected several thousands unarmed Nuer civilians in the neighbourhoods of Gudelle, Mia Saba, Thongpiny, Jabal Kujur, Manga teen, Souk Jabal, Khor William, Gumbo, New Site, Jabal Dinka, Guray etc., Hundreds of them were summarily executed at Gudelle Police Station and thousands others were killed in different locations where their bodies dumped on the River Nile or burnt to ashes beyond recognitions. This is very painful story but the UN and other human rights groups did not revealed the exact numbers of the Nuer civilians killed during the aftermath of the massacre in Juba and its surrounding areas. The real figures were later revealed by the victims themselves who fled to UNMISS camps at Jebel Kujur and Thongpiny or hidden by their Equatorian’s friends in Juba town.

When the news of the massacres of Nuer in Juba spread throughout the Nuerlands in Upper Nile, Unity and Jongeli States, ten of thousands of well armed Nuer youth and SPLA deserted soldiers flocked into government garrisons in Greater Upper Nile States where they attacked government loyalists which resulted to the capturing of the three state’s capitals of Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei. In the process of these fighting many lives were lost on both sides. Since December 2013, the towns of Bor, Malakal and Bentiu were repeatedly captured or recaptured by SPLA – In Opposition or government soldiers and their Uganda (UPDF), JEM and SPLA-N allies more than four times, in which thousands of innocent civilians were sadly killed there and destructions of properties were enormous indeed. Government infrastructures and religious worshiping centres as well as hospitals were therefore demolished in all the three state capitals of Bentiu, Bor and Malakal as well as at counties level during the course of fighting between the two parties.

Following the recaptured of Bentiu by SPLA – In Opposition on the 16 April 2014, from the government forces in which the UN and other international NGOs expressed propound disappointments with alleged killing of over 200 Darfuri and Dinka civilians and 400 others wounded. This damning report was circulated all over media houses all over the world and several countries expressed strong condemnations against the rebel movement who were accused of perpetrating a deliberate massacre against the unarmed civilians caught in cross-fire in the town of Bentiu. The SPLM/A – In Opposition on their part, strongly repudiated the allegation made by UNMISS boss Mr. Toby Lanzer and journalists from several news media who visited the town of Bentiu following the capture of the town by rebels who said that those Darfuri killed or other South Sudanese men (Dinka) who died along with them were not civilians but government sponsored militias and mercenaries. The SPLA – In Opposition Spokesman and other sources from the ground indicated that there were no Darfuri traders existing in Bentiu since January 2014, when the government forces and their allies recaptured it from them.

All the Sudanese traders evacuated all along the town because it becomes a war zone, and virtually deserted by its entire population to UNMISS camp, where over 8000 IDPs resides there. There was no reason at all for 800 traders from Darfur to continue in Bentiu town where there was no market or buyers to buy their goods. It is true; while in combats they usually dressed with civilian clothes and used the Mosque during that attack by SPLM/A – In Opposition forces as human shields. They had indeed guns and fought vigorously against the rebel forces when they were denied access to UNMISS compound by rebel forces following the capture of Rup Kona’s Bridge. Those civilians who felt threats because of fighting they definitely ran to UNMISS compound in Bentiu before the fighting reached the town. The fight took nearly three days before the capture of Bentiu occurred. If the Darfuri traders were actually civilians who felt threatens they would have gone to UNMISS camp before the fighting escalated into town.

The same thing with the alleged Dinka civilians who were said by UN and other aid agencies that they were deliberately massacred by SPLA- In Opposition forces. Those Dinka men who got killed were also recruited government sponsored militias who were fighting actively on the side of the government against the rebel forces. The rebels denied killing of any unarmed civilians being elderly, women or children intentionally during the fight in Bentiu. If the rebels were intended to massacre the Darfuri and Dinka civilians as it was alleged, what would have prevented the 400 wounded not to be killed in the Mosque while the rebels were the ones in control of the town and not UNMISS? Definitely, the rebels would have killed them all if they really wished to do so. The UN and other NGOs had indeed given misleading information to the outside world, which was not the true picture in the ground. They are indeed inciting more massacres in South Sudan by issuing false allegations on the side of the rebels. The Radio of Bentiu was used only by SPLM/A – In Opposition commanders who captured the town to inform those still in hiding to avail themselves that the town was free and not used for projecting hate messages as it was later alleged by UNMISS representatives from Juba and their accompanied journalists. All the images shown on the news media had no any child or woman seen in it. They were all men wearing civilian clothes where the rebels collected their guns after they got killed in action. This is a propaganda that will not serve the purpose and instead it will certainly create more harm then good between the two rival communities of Dinka and Nuer respectively. This will also make peace in South Sudan difficult to be realised within a short time if the UNMISS and other international NGOs continuous to wage such negative propaganda campaigns against one group of the fighting parties or most importantly against the SPLM/A – In Opposition and their Nuer sympathizers.

What UNMISS has been preaching following the fall of Bentiu to the rebel forces on 16 April, through the international news outlets, the resultant of it was the worst gruesome and awful attacks on Nuer civilians at UNMISS camp in Bor on the 21 April, when some SPLA soldiers and other organised forces from the government along with Bor youth went on rampage and attacked 6000 IDPs from Nuer as retaliations by Dinka to what happened to their people in Bentiu. The attack on UNMISS camp in Bor was a government initiative which was directly spearheaded by some well-known senior government officials from Jonglei and Bahr El Gazal States to massacre Nuer. The UNMISS did not give adequate protection to the IDPs inside their centre in Bor and that was the reason why 145 persons mostly women and children were deliberately killed by their Dinka attackers. Another 273 persons sustained injuries and unknown numbers of Nuer youth fled to bushes in panics and never reported back to the camp. They are presumed dead because the same attackers pursued them. The UNMISS continuously kept the numbers of those IDPs killed or wounded down simply because they did not want an embarrassment from international community or get into loggerheads with the government in Juba. The survivors themselves were the ones who revealed the accurate figures because UNMISS always played down the numbers of those killed and wound. In the first place they gave conservative estimates of 20 persons killed and 48 wounded. This is a complete lie and at the same time a great insult to the Nuer victims and their loved ones. UNMISS should not act biasedly for fears from the government to terminate their activities in South Sudan. The UNMISS mandates in South Sudan is to protect human lives and their properties against any human rights violators no matter war. They have the full mandate from the United Nations in New York to use all the necessary means if human rights of any community is seriously violated by any warring party in the conflict.

On 23 April, the town of Renk was briefly captured by the SPLM/A – In Opposition forces in which they dislodged government forces and their ally’s forces from town. After the rebels withdrew from the town which bordering the White Nile State, Republic of Sudan, the Nuer officials in the government and other organised forces were deliberately killed by their Dinka colleagues and militia soldiers who were armed by the government to intentionally fight the rebels. According to various reports from different sources said that about 300 Nuer civilians have been killed in Renk alone. UNMISS has no present in Renk and no NGOs agency can easily verify this report because few of the NGOs who used to operate in Renk had evacuated the town before it was briefly occupied by the rebels.

On 27 April, Mapel SPLA Training Centre was attacked by a group of Dinka soldiers in which they killed about 192 unarmed SPLA Nuer trainees and several hundreds others fled to forests for their own safety. Their whereabouts are not known and the government still playing it down as if nothing had actually happened. According to the statement from the State Government of Western Bahr El Gazal State Hon. Razik Zachariah Hassan, he said that some widows whose husbands got killed by the rebels in Unity State carried out the attacks on Nuer SPLA trainees in Mapel. He also played down the death rates to be three persons killed and four other wounded. If this statement over Radio Tamazaj is true, could several hundreds of Nuer men who left behind their dear wives and children ran to the bushes to escape widow’s onslaughts? Could this episode provoke the defections of seven Brigadier Generals and their forces of not less than a complete brigade to forests? Would the widows managed to kill 192 persons as reported by the survivors in the bushes and defector generals from Wau area? And yet the attackers are still hunting after those who escaped such ordeals. This appalling situation aggravated the defections of 7 SPLA Brigadier Generals and their forces that are from Nuer simply because they did not want their own fellows Nuer to be humiliated in such a manner in their watch. The 7 brave Brig. Generals have decided to rescue their fellows Nuer instead of continued supporting this notorious government in Juba under dictator Salva Kiir Mayardit. The UNMISS did not report this incident to the outside world yet they are more concerned with the fates of Darfuri rebels from JEM and SPLA – N who were killed in action by SPLM/A – In Opposition in Bentiu. The government forces and their Uganda (UPDF) allies have recently captured the town of Ayod from the SPLA In Opposition forces in which they are now conducting gruesome killings against the civilians in the area and yet UNMISS and other international NGOs are keeping quiet and not reporting such wanton killing of Nuer in all these places.

3. Humanitarian Situation:

The humanitarian situation in Greater Upper Nile States of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei is pathetic indeed. Most of its population have migrated to neighbouring countries or UNMISS camps or to saver areas within the country. Over one million people are already registered by UN and NGOs agencies operating in South Sudan as IDPs within the country in which most of them are from Greater Upper Nile States. Juba alone has not less than 50,000 Nuer IDPs in the UNMISS compounds whereas Bentiu with 22,000 IDPs, Malakal has the same number of 22,000; Malut has over 30,000 and Bor with 6,000 IDPs. Wau has got over 1000 Nuer IDPs whereas some of them are being rejected entrance to UNMISS compound in Wau by the government of Western Bahr El Gazal State. Nuer students at Bahr El Gazal University are greatly affected by the recent skirmishes in the area. It is reported that a number of university students have been arrested of are presumed missing by their colleagues who fled to UNMISS compound in Wau. The families of Nuer unarmed soldiers in Mapel needs to be traced because some conflicting reports indicated that some Dinka soldiers had killed them all or some fled to forests for safety. This needs UNMISS and other Human Rights organisations to pay an urgent field assessment to see if the families of the murdered and fleeing Nuer soldiers are still alive so that they can be relocated to UNMISS camp in Wau town. The IDPs at UNMISS camps in all the states Greater Upper Nile and Central Equatoria need to be relocated to secure countries like Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia instead of remaining in that sad conditions for too long. They are more less prisoners in their own country. They lack most of basic human necessities. Their children are at high risk of contracting water bone diseases and malnutrition and at the same time not attending schools. The elders are very much depressed and are facing state of hopelessness and uncertainties. The UN and other NGOs agencies can transport them to where their children can go to schools or move freely than being confined inside UNMISS compounds throughout the country like prisoners of war.

In the SPLM/A – In Opposition controlled areas, education is completely none existent where most of the teachers have abandoned their teaching jobs and joined either the government or the rebels rank. Several hundred thousands children of school aged are staying without attending classes. Food situation is also very sacred indeed and this will force millions of people to abandon their homesteads in search of food and protections in secured places. Health situation is also very demanding whereby majority of the victims have gunshot wounds and others are suffering with different ailments mostly children with severe malnutrition cases. Cross-border operations through, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia would serve more lives if negotiated in good face with the host countries and implemented by UN and NGOs agencies which is similar to that of OLS in 1990s, where both government of Sudan and (SPLM/A) controlled areas were served equally.

4. Peace in South Sudan:

If this war in South Sudan is not handled carefully, regional conflict may flare up very soon because the continuous supports of UPDF, JEM, and SPLA – N and other invisible actors like Egypt and Zimbabwe to the government of Salva Kiir in Juba would definitely attract other regional countries to join the ongoing war. Therefore, the international community has a task to pressurise the government in Juba to delink itself from his allies otherwise South Sudan will soon be a theatre of war between competing regional leaders over control of its vast oil and mineral resources. The most of its population will migrate into more secured areas in the neighbouring countries. This is because Juba is intensifying war vigorously with full supports from his allies, which are also enemies of other regional leaders. Uganda has been actively engaged in combat operations in Greater Upper Nile where they used cluster bombs against civilian’s targets in Jonglei State and jets in Unity and Upper Nile States. With the latest development where some communities are being targeted indiscriminately, the situation is already out of control and will be difficult to bring this war to an end very soon as long as some foreign mercenary allies of the government are still active in war in South Sudan. Norway must double its efforts to pressurise both Juba and Kampala to immediately withdraw the UPDF forces in South Sudan in order to give peace a chance.  The same thing with Darfuri (JEM) and SPLM-N (Nuba & Ingessnia of Blue Nile) rebels who are siding with the government in Juba against the SPLA – In Opposition. The present of Sudanese rebels in South Sudan to protect the oil fields installations which are under threats from the SPLM/A – In Opposition forces and in turn they also receive their shares from oil revenues and in addition to supply lines through Upper Nile and Unity State to continue with their war against Khartoum. The JEM and SPLA – N have abandoned their cause for material gains in South Sudan. Therefore, UN should advise their leaders not to involve their fighters in conflict in South Sudan while at the same time disusing as Sudanese traders.

Generally, genuine Sudanese traders are free to operate anywhere in South Sudan without any intimidations. But the present of JEM and SPLA – N in war against the SPLM/A – In Opposition is highly posing serious threats to Sudanese traders operating in South Sudan. This is a very serious game in which people of South Sudan at the end of the days will be the losers from this war. The international community most save South Sudan from imminent collapse from Salva Kiir. The people of South Sudan are tired of war and are longing for a lasting peace where democracy, development, rule of law, accountability and human rights shall be the basis of principles of good governance in the country.

This report is compiled by: Daniel Wuor Joak
Executive Director of African Centre for Human Advocacy (ACHA)
Date: 30th April 2014
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