In the middle of December 2013 South Sudan descended into violent conflict triggered by disagreements within the ruling SPLM party. The conflict which started in Juba on the night of 15 December between Presidential guards loyal to President Kiir and factions loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar resulted in mass killing of both armed Nuer and unarmed Nuer civilians mistakenly thought to be Riek loyalists. Within a week the fighting escalated to other parts of South Sudan especially in Bor, Bentiu, Akobo where Nuer killed Dinka civilians in revenge for the killings in Juba. The revenge killing of Dinka was followed by a wide defection of Nuer soldiers from the SPLA who joined the rebellion.
When government forces recaptured Bentiu from the rebels on 10 January 2014, it was alleged that elements of SRF especially JEM and SLM/A fought alongside SPLA government troops in the attack on Bentiu as well as Leer. In the aftermath of the government forces’ recapture of Bentiu, rebel leaders as well as the local population accused alleged SRF elements of causing the annihilation of Rubkona town as well as massive looting of properties.
In January 2014, there was an influx of many new traders into Bentiu and Rubkona towns mainly from the nearby Abyei area and Twic County in Warrap state who came to start businesses in the ruined towns. The influx of Darfurians and other Sudanese traders to Bentiu alleviated the suffering of devastated and deprived local people by providing foodstuffs as well as clothes in the market.
April 14-15 2014: Rebels attack Bentiu:
When the rebels took over control of Bentiu this month, the government troops retreated south of Bentiu town. However, most of the civilians including traders from Sudan stayed in the town, seeking shelter in Rubkona and Bentiu mosques, while others sought shelter in the churches and in Bentiu hospital. The rebels deliberately targeted the civilians from three ethnic groups namely Darfurians, Dinka and Nuer Bul of Mayom County. According to sources within Bentiu, about 530 Sudanese traders were massacred by the armed youth from Nuer who were fighting alongside the SPLA in Opposition forces.
SUDO calls on all engaged in the fighting to cease attacking civilians
SUDO calls on the rebel leaders to denounce the massacre of civilians in Bentiu and bring those involved in the killing to justice.
SUDO calls on all involved in the conflict to cease destroying South Sudan by this horrific bloodshed where civilians are the chief sufferers and to engage in serious peacemaking and reconciliation. All should recognize that South Sudan belongs to all the people, who have the right to live their lives in peace and tranquility in order to develop the country. Darfuris and other Sudanese who have come to live and work in South Sudan or been forced to flee to the South have an equal right to work and to live in peace. In particular, the destruction of traders will lead to the further destruction of living standards of all in the region.