The Conflict in Unity State (1 July 2015)
Describing events through 1 July 2015
Over the last two months, a Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) offensive swept through southern Unity state, razing villages, killing civilians, taking cattle, and abducting women. Initially, it seemed as if the offensive had effectively destroyed the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) as an organized military force in Unity state. In April and May 2015, the SPLA pushed south from Bentiu, the state capital, rapidly overrunning SPLA-IO positions in Guit and Koch counties, before attacking Leer county. These attacks displaced more than a hundred thousand civilians. SPLA forces also pushed northeast from Lakes state, and attacked SPLA-IO positions and villages in Mayendit and Panyijar counties. Having driven the SPLA-IO from southern Unity—the wellspring of rebel support in the state—much of the SPLA involved in the offensive withdrew to Bentiu, before attacking Panakuac, the main SPLA-IO military base on the Sudanese border, and routing the rebels, who fled into Sudan. During the SPLA’s southern offensive, the SPLA-IO generally chose not to engage, and its soldiers slipped into the bush. After the SPLA’s withdrawal, the SPLA-IO rapidly retook the territory it had conceded, and by the end of June, was again present in Leer and Guit counties, as well as in the southern counties of Mayendit and Panyijar.