April 26, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese rebels led by former vice-president, Riek Machar dismissed a government announcement that its forces had recaptured Unity state’s Mayom town, which borders Warrap state, saying the claims were “premature and incorrect” as rebels “are still in full control of the area”.
The South Sudanese army (SPLA) said on Friday that it has regained control of the strategic town of Mayom, saying it is only a matter of time before it will exert full control over all rebel-held areas.
“Yes, our forces are in Mayom. They have captured it from the rebels and it is a matter of time before they take complete control of all the areas,” SPLA spokesperson Colonel Philip Aguer said on Friday.
Aguer said government forces would now proceed to the capital, Bentiu, to dislodge rebel forces there.
The SPLA “will definitely go to Bentiu and push those rebels out. It is just a matter of time and all the areas within territorial jurisdiction of the Republic of South Sudan will be secure. We have the mandate to provide protection and to secure safety of our people and their properties,” Aguer added.
However, James Gatdet Dak, the spokesperson for rebel leader Riek Machar, maintains rebels are still in control of the town and its surrounding areas.
“The claim over the control of Mayom town by the government was premature and incorrect. Our forces are in full control of the town and its surroundings. Any doubting Thomas should visit the area and independently verify it,” Dak said when contacted by Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
However, he admitted that government forces temporarily entered the town after they were lured in by rebel troops.
“What happened was a temporary tactical withdrawal by our forces who lured them into the town without a fight and then closed them in from the rear. This was to target their war equipment and logistics, which they actually left behind when they were crashed and flushed out on Saturday morning,” said Dak, adding that remnants had fled in disarray as rebels pursued them towards Abiemnhom county.
Rebel forces captured the town from government troops loyal to president Salva Kiir on 21 April. Analysts say that rebels could use the area as a base to attack Warrap state and areas beyond.