The two-week-old South Sudan violence has escalated over the past few hours as reports of 25,000 rebels are marching on the capital have surfaced. The 25,000 young men are from a tribal group called the “White Army.” The army is marching in support Riek Machar who was recently ousted by current president Salva Kiir.
This rebel army is made up of men from the tribe of Nuer and have stated in the past that they would fight another tribe the Murle until they were exterminated. The movement of this major force has removed any remnants of a cease-fire.The leader of the rebels, ousted Vice President Machar, has stated that there will be no ceasefire until all parties are represented in negotiations and that preconditions had been met. One such precondition is the release of Machar’s political supporters who have been jailed.
Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth reports that Machar’s forces are positioned outside the capital of South Sudan, Bor, and are awaiting the “White Army” to arrive. The army is from Machar’s tribe Lou-Nuer and was last reported about 30 miles from Bor. Bor fell into rebel hands early in the conflict but was re-taken by government forces within a few days. It is also the area where U.S. aircraft took on ground fire injuring 4 American soldiers. South Sudan is now bracing for some of the worst fighting to date. It was apparent that fighting has escalated in South Sudan and with 25,000 rebels marching on the capital there is a great concern that U.N. peace keepers will not be able to protect the remaining civilians in the war-torn areas.
There is great concern for collateral damage in this conflict. The rebel group has already shown signs of fighting along ethnic lines. Earlier in the conflict about 2,000 tribal Nuer attacked the U.N. base in Akobo killing three U.N. troops and dozens of ethnic Dinka. The South Sudan conflict appears to be not only a battle for cities but also about ethnicity with the Nuer tribe fighting against the Dinka tribe. The victims of this conflict continue to be the civilians with the U.N. reporting that hundreds of thousands of citizens have been displaced and thousands killed. Toby Lanzer, head of humanitarian operations in South Sudan, places conservative estimate of 120,000 displaced citizens. Lanzer reported to the BBC that while touring the local hospitals that he was seeing thousands of insured citizens.
What began as struggle between two political figures, Machar and Kiir, has escalated into a violent South Sudan clash now involving as many as 25,000 rebels marching on the capital. Machar’s goals appear to be political power and possible national wealth. Machar and his army have targeted the two states with the most valuable oil production. Machar’s general, James Koang Chuo, has stated that his military forces have taken over and effectively shut down oil production in the state of Unity and other Upper Nile states. The Sudan Tribune reported that the shutdown was the direct result of workers leaving the fields and that there was now no technical expertise to operate the machinery and production sites.
By Anthony Clark