South Sudan

South Sudan armed opposition denies abusing civilians in Western Equatoria

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October 19, 2018 (JUBA) - The military and political leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and Army In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) has issued a statement denying claims that its fighters have been involved in abuses against civil population in Western Equatoria region, pushing blames instead on the government forces and local commanded militia groups allied to senior government officials at the national level.

Col. Lam Paul Gabriel SPLA IO, Deputy Military Spokesperson of the fighters under the overall leadership of Riek Machar, said Friday the leadership of the movement was surprised by the report released on 18th October 2018, by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, accusing them of violations of the signed permanent ceasefire and abuses against civilians in Western Equatoria region, particularly in areas of Gbudue and Tombura.

The reports accused the SPLA IO of carrying out attacks on villages, forceful recruitment of children, abduction and rape of women among others.

“The SPLA IO doesn’t have a policy of harassment against any civilian. Our duty is to protect civilians and their properties while working hard to achieve our reform agenda in South Sudan”, reads the statement.

The movement, it notes, is aware only of the attack and capture of Nagero, the administrative headquarters of Negero county, forcing civil population to flee their homes in search of safety in democratic republic of Congo and Namatina for safety after the government forces carried out a door to door search and burning houses, looting properties, raping young girls, women and elderly following withdrawal of its forces.

“That fight in Nagero happened at a barrack not where civilians reside. It was after the SPLA IO forces withdrew that the regime’s forces went from door to door burning houses, looting properties and raping girls, women and elderlies leading to civilians leaving Nagero to DRC and Namatina for safety”, it said.

The statement further pointed out that there are other armed forces in Western Equatoria that have been so aggressive towards civilians. These forces, it said, acts as counterinsurgents to tarnish the image of the SPLA IO.

“The Governor of Gbudue Daniel Badagbu also confirmed this during a meeting with UNMISS Boss Shearer in July 2018. He further said in one of his rallies that there are three groups in Gbudue that are causing insecurity in the area.

The group for FVP Taban Deng Gai and Jemma Nunu Kumba whose major aim is to tarnish the image of the SPLA IO. The group of politicians within his government who are conspiring with the local youth to cause insecurity so that he can be removed from Governorship.

The former rebels who signed peace with the government in June 2018 but didn’t get what the government promised them; so, they turned to loot civilians for their daily bread”, it said.

The government forces, according to the statement, should be investigated so that no one is left out.

Gabriel pointed out the movement has zero tolerance on individual soldiers or officers who intentionally cause harm to civilians.

“The leadership of the SPLA-IO will investigate all these allegations through the right channel and bring anyone found guilty of any crime to books so that justice is served,” he said.

(ST)