By Philip Buda Ladu
There has been reported clashes in Maban county of Upper Nile State but it is not yet clear of who is attacking who as the SPLA-IO and the SSPDF trade counter accusations against each other about the Saturday attack.
Col. Lam Paul Gabriel, the Spokesperson of the SPLA-IO told No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper on Sunday that the clashes occurred in Lengeji cantonment site, a base of the SPLA-IO which was established by the Joint Military Ceasefire Commission (JMCC) in Maban, Upper Nile State.
The Colonel said that when there is an attack in Lengeji that means it is not the SPLA-IO that is been aggressive but it is being attacked by a foreign force.
“I can confirm to you clearly that the SSPDF commander, Maj. Gen. Gordon Banak about three days ago was in Maban and we don’t know what orders he gave to the SSPDF but we were just surprised that the day before yesterday (Sunday) Lengeji was attacked even after directives from the President making sure that no clashes should happened again between the SSPDF and the SPLA-IO.” Col. Lam said.
The attack comes just days after the officers in the new unified command structure were sworn in and the SPLA-IO Acting Chief of General staff is now the Deputy Chief of Defense Forces (CDF) of the SSPDF.
“This attack is not only a violation but undermining directive from the President himself, so this is actually what happened and we are not happy about it, but we call for serious investigation so that anyone who will be found to be the aggressor should be really held accountable by the Joint Defense Board and also the Unified Command” Col. Lam stated.
He emphasized the need for coordination and cooperation between the forces so that the peace in the nation is reached.
“But I can assure you this, as long as the JDB is able to leave their differences aside and think of the nation, I believe they can bring this to an end, it’s just a matter of calling the commanders on ground to bring them to Juba and hold them accountable for what they have done” Col. Lam stressed.
He noted that soldiers don’t go to fight without orders so when there is a force that moves from one location to another, there is a commander behind that movement.
“It’s the high time that JDB need to be able to identify these individuals who are rude and like ordering forces to attack each other to be brought to Juba and held accountable” he said.
Col. Lam however said as long as they are not able to bring those commanders down and hold them accountable, some people will continue to take advantage of this process.
However, Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) spokesperson told No. 1 Citizen Daily newspaper, Sunday that the SSPDF position in Maban County of Upper Nile State was instead the one attacked by forces loyal Dr. Riek Machar on Saturday and the attackers were repulsed.
Gen. Lul alleged that the attackers were believed to be SPLA-IO as most of the villages in Maban are being inhabited by the SPLA-IO soldiers accusing them of also mobilizing civilians to join their offensive.
“It was an attack and the attackers were repulsed but we didn’t sustain any casualties, but I was told that the attacking force had lost one person and also two wounded” Gen. Lul Ruai said.
Asked why they reported attacks after the unification of command, the SSPDF spokesperson said the SPLA-IO in the countryside is still having their commanders that are commanding their separate forces which are not yet cantoned in the cantonment sites and they are the ones provoking the clashes.
“You know the funny part of the unified command is that it’s at the highest level here in Juba, SPLA-IO in the countryside is still having its commanders that are commanding their separate forces” Gen. Lul lamented.
“This forces that are causing problems, attacking our positions are forces that have not yet been to the cantonment areas, they are not in the cantonment areas or training centers, so we have the necessary unified forces in the training centers, we have been together for the last 3 years without any problems but the forces that are causing problems are the ones loyal to SPLA-IO that are not part and parcel of the ongoing arrangements” Gen. Lul explained.