National, News

INSECURITY: NAS disintegration causes looming threats

By Philip Buda Ladu/UNMISS


Persistent violence by armed groups in Yei and Lainya counties due to disintegration of the National Salvation Front (NAS) rebels, is causing fears.

Communities and local authorities in the two counties of Central Equatoria State raised worries during a visit by United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) representatives.

During the discussion, Yei River County Commissioner reported increasing abductions of ex-combatants and veterans in the area by armed groups seeking to swell their ranks.

“This is deeply concerning as it will increase violence in the county,” said the Commissioner, Aggrey Cyrus Kanyikwa.

In a press statement, a senior National Salvation Front (NAS), commander recently announced abandoning Gen. Thomas Cirilo Swaka, to form his own group.

General John Kenyi Lotio declared his faction called the National Salvation United Forces (NASUF).

A former regional commander in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) of Dr. Riek Machar, in July 2017, Gen. Kenyi switched side to Gen. Cirilo’s NAS.

However, Gen. Kenyi has ditched Gen. Cirilo again, to form his own rebel outfit, declaring himself the Commander-in-Chief of the recently formed NASUF faction.

Accusing his former boss of poor leadership and divisive policies, Gen. Kenyi claimed, these have since 2018, caused frustration, defections, hatred, mistrust, and factional division among officers.

The former NAS top general and deputy chief of staff for training proclaimed himself the savior to unite, what he described as deserting troops under Cirilo in order to restore hope for their suffering citizens.

Breakout of Gen. Kenyi was followed by NAS operation commander in Yei, identified as Brig. Gen. Joseph Taban, who pledged his allegiance to the new rebel outfit.

In 2023 another senior NAS military commander, Brig. Gen. Kennedy Kenyi Abdu also defected to the unity government under leadership President Salva Kiir.

Yei and Lainya County Commissioners expressed fears about the disintegration of the armed groups into new forces that pose a threat to stability across the region.

The local leaders appealed to UNMISS to support efforts by local authorities and security forces to address the issue and ensure that civilians are protected.

The situation is being further exacerbated by a surge in misinformation and disinformation, spreading from the country into the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. This has stoked fear of cross-border violence and prompting Congolese communities to take up arms in self-defense in the belief of imminent attacks.

“The situation is very dire. We need UNMISS’s help to stop this misinformation campaign and prevent further violence. We urge the mission to use its influence to bring together all parties involved and find a peaceful solution,” Mr. Kanyikwa said.

The concerns about a rise in armed activity and recruitment of troops are deeply concerning, given the history of violence and instability in Central Equatoria region.

“As UNMISS, we have taken note of this situation and, through our good offices, we will work closely with authorities to engage with communities and the parties to prevent violence,” said the Head of UNMISS’ Juba Field Office, Njoki Rahab Kinyanjui.

The local authorities said it was imperative that international actors work together to prevent further violence and instability and support efforts to find a peaceful solution.

“As a government, we shall continue to engage for peace. However, the United Nations and other partners need to step in and ensure that security concerns are addressed,” said Mr. Kanyikwa.

“We cannot afford any more violence and instability in our region. The people have suffered enough.”

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