SSPDF denies labeling Bari Community as NAS rebels

By Bida Elly David

The South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF), has distanced itself from associating the Bari Community to National Salvation Front (NAS).

Speaking during a press conference at the army headquarters at Bilpam yesterday, the army’s spokesperson Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang said the army did not generalize the whole Bari Community as members of NAS.

He clarified rather that the army’s statement was that there was presence of NAS rebels in some Island between Juba and Mangala.

“We in the SSPDF general headquarters did not label the Bari Community as NAS rebels. In the statement I shared, we made it very clear that there are some Islands between Juba and Mangala that are being inhabited by NAS rebels” he explained.

“There is presence of NAS on some of the Islands – thus we did not say that members of the Bari community staying in those Islands are rebels” Lul further expounded.

He said that the SSPDF had got nothing to do with intercommunal violence between the Bari Community and the Bor cattle herders; saying that their target was the NAS rebels who wedged attacks on them.

“Why should the leadership of the Bari Community say that the SSPDF forces killed innocent civilians in favour of Bor Cattle herders? Our concerns were the NAS rebels. We are not concerned with the intercommunal violence between the Bari Community and the Bor herders” he stated.

He said that the SSPDF shall form a joint committee alongside the Bari Community meant to undertake findings and verification to prove that the army killed innocent civilians but not NAS.

“We are calling and demanding for a joint fact-finding mission and verification team to be sent to some of the Islands where we discovered fox holes and defensive trenches as well as show them the motor shells we recovered after our engagement with NAS rebels so that they tell that those who dug the holes were not NAS rebels but Bari armed youth” he said.

Lul added that the demand for the withdrawal of the SSPDF forces by the Bari community shall be the responsibility of the SSPDF and the top leadership to deicide.

He accepted the fact that they did not let the civilians withdraw during their clash with the NAS forces because they were at an isolated location distant from the inhabitants.

“We always only inform local population to evacuate so that they don’t become victims of stray bullets” he said.

He added that military operations don’t work jointly with civilians due to the fact that leaders of specific communities are civilians.

“We have no business to inform community leadership that we have traced enemies in certain areas. Our forces in Mangala were attacked during their foot patrol during the festive season” he said.

Moreover, Lul underscored that the statement concerning his resignation or removal would be based on adjudging his performance but not forceful demand by community elders.

He threatened to take legal action against the community leaders once further findings concerning the accusation have been gathered.

“We will take legal measures against the Bari Community leadership incase investigation finds them guilty, or, I will pardon them based on Church principals” he said.

On December 30th last year, the Bari community in their condemnation letter accused the SSPDF forces for having killed innocent civilians in Mangala Payam – saying that the army termed the citizens as members of the NAS forces.

The accusation triggered the army to meet over the matter for concrete reactions.

No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper’s efforts to reach the chairperson of the Bari Community were not immediately successful.

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