May 20, 2011 (JUBA) – The rebel South Sudan Liberation Army led by Peter Gatdet Yaka has attacked South Sudan’s army (SPLA) in Mankien Payam [district] of Mayom County in Unity state on Friday morning at around 6:00am Sudanese local time.
At least nine people died and 88 were wounded sources told Sudan Tribune on Friday.
Gatdet who was a general in the SPLA took up arms against the South’s ruling SPLM in April citing corruption and tribal favoritism as his reasons. The SPLA claim Gatdet is being used by Khartoum to destabilize the region ahead of its independence in July. Both Gatdet and Sudanese government deny this.
In a phone interview with Sudan Tribune from an anonymous location in South Sudan, Bol Gatkuoth Kol the spokesman of SSLA said that 10 of their soldiers had been wounded and four killed. He said that they had captured Mankien including areas of Ruathnyibol.
SPLA Major. General Koang Chuol operation officer for Division (4) of Unity State confirmed that Gatdet’s militia attacked their base in Mankien on Friday morning but denied they had taken the town.
The military spokesman said, the militia had pushed the SPLA out of town for about only 20 minutes before the SPLA was able to recapture the Mankien.
Choul said that the SPLA had forced the SSLA force southwards towards the border with Warrap state. Five SPLA soldiers died and 21 were seriously wounded, he said.
However, a nurse from Mayom County hospital, whose name would cannot be mentioned for security reasons, has told Sudan Tribune that 84 SPLA soldiers were seriously wounded.
The nurse said that five members of the security services had died at Mayom hospital, three SPLA soldiers and two police officers who had stepped on a mine while, trying to reinforced SPLA in Mankien.
Chuol warned civilians south of Mankien to move away from the area to avoid being caught up in what he described as a war zone. He said that anyone in the area would be considered to be on the side of the SSLA.
“Anyone found in those areas with militias will be push[ed] away with rebels and would be termed as siding with them”. He urged civilians to move east of Mayom to find safety and security.
Chuol said that civilians who remain to look after their property would not be considered as part of our supporting the SSLA but those who flee with the militia would be treated as one of the rebels by the South Sudan military who were pursuing them.
Cattle Raiding and Disarmament
In a phone interview with Sudan Tribune from an anonymous location, Bol Gatkuoth Kol the spokesman of SSLA said that the fresh attacks against the SPLA was due to their disarmament campaign in Mayom County.
Kol said that the SPLA had disarmed civilians in Mayom but had not disarmed civilians from neighbouring Warrap state allowing raiders to steel cattle and other property.
He accused the South Sudan government of not doing anything to prevent cattle raiding from Warrap state into Mayom county of Unity state.
“Our coming to the area was to help the civilians to protect their properties from being taken by those gangs of Warrap”, said Kol.
But Maj. Gen. Chuol of the SPLA dismissed the claims of militias. He said the SPLA was the army of the whole of South Sudan and provided security to all citizens regardless of their tribal affiliations.
Chuol repeated the SPLA’s claim that the attacks in South Sudan are backed by the northern army, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), in order to destabilize the region before it official independence on July 9, 2011.
Gatdet is a one of the militia commanders, absorbed into the Southern army in the 2006 following the 2005 peace deal between the SPLA and SAF that made the former rebels the official army of South Sudan.
He officially announced his defection in March and formed SSLA. On 11 April 2011 he released the Mayom Declaration.
The head administrator of the disputed Abyei region said that the SSLA offensive against Mankiem was “coordinated” with Khartoum. The ruling National Congress Party and the SAF have always denied they are backing any of the seven rebel groups currently operating in South Suda