Hostilities continue to mount between South Sudan’s army, the SPLA, and a renegade army general who last week announced that he was amassing a personal contingent of soldiers in order to challenge election results in the southern state of Jonglei.
General George Athor and an unknown number of soldiers defected from the South’s army in protest of what they judged were flawed election outcomes. Athor was defeated as an independent candidate in the Jonglei state governor race by the southern ruling party, or SPLM, candidate. Soldiers allegedly supporting Athor attacked an SPLA base last Friday, killing eight soldiers. Though the defeated candidate denied planning the attacks, he announced soon after that he controlled a group of soldiers—and was ready to attack if threatened.
The latest developments in this tense situation suggest the two parties have come closer to all-out fighting. According to Athor, troops loyal to South Sudan President Salva Kiir (interestingly, Athor referred to them as Kiir’s troops, not the SPLA) attacked him and his troops this week. Over 50 men were killed. In response, General Athor declared that negotiating an end to his rebellion was no longer on the table,suggesting that the only resolution would be a military one.
"I don’t think that we can talk to [Kiir] again. We have decided there is no negotiations anymore,” Athor said. An SPLA spokesman said the army had not been given any orders to attack Athor. The army estimates Athor may have 100 soldiers under his command.
Elections may be over, but its repercussions on the stability of the South are certainly still being felt. In the short and long term, South Sudan remains challenged with the potential for violence that, among other factors, stems from divisions within the army and the oft-forgotten fact that the southern ruling party is still transitioning from a coalition of disparate militia leaders into a unified political force that invokes the rule of law before the use of arms.
Photo: SPLA soldiers in Abyei (IRIN)