Conflicting reports have been released from South Sudan regarding the 25,000 strong “White Army.” Often, reporting is difficult due to the fog of war phenomenon. Essentially when conflict arises information can become difficult to find and corroborate. Currently differing reports are being released regarding the young rebel Lou-Nuer tribal army also known as the “White Army.” The group received the name because of their use of white ash spread over their faces and bodies to deflect insects.
Reports from the Trust website, a Thomas Reuters Foundation, is reporting the rebel youths have violently clashed with government troops. Meanwhile reports from USA Today are quoting a South Sudan government official who says Nuer community leaders met with the “White Army” resulting in the group disbanding and going home. Reuters also reports that while government forces and the feared rebel army did clash the rebel groups numbers were greatly diminished.
Minister of Information Michael Makuei reported to the Associated Press the leaders in Jonglei state had met with the rebel youth group and convinced them to disband and go home. Makuei further reported that only a small number of the South Sudan rebel group were on the march. However, presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateng denied this report and indicated clashes between the “White Army” and government forces had taken place.
Reuters reports differs somewhat in numbers creating the fog of war, or conflicting information, coming out of South Sudan in regards to the “White Army” numbers. Reuters states that some 5,000 members of the rebel group were engaged by government forces. South Sudan military spokesman Philip Aguer reportedly indicated that the “White Army” was engaged by government helicopter gunships. The group was armed with small weapons, machetes and sticks and were dispersed and turned back, according to Aguer. However, Makuei also reported that the band of rebel forces had reached within 18 miles of the capital and had taken control of Mathiang before being turned away.
Reports have also varied as to who is in control of the “White Army.” Some reports place the ousted Vice-President Riek Machar in control of the group while an unidentified rebel spokesman denied this claim. Regardless of the controlling factor of the rebel militant group, the U.N. has expressed great concern. Joe Contreras, a spokesman for the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, stated that the group was a “wild card” and the “White Army” remained a volatile and unpredictable element in the conflict. Contreras is also concerned that rebel youth groups of this nature also fuel the ethnic fighting that is occurring.
General Hilde Johnson, U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary General, stated that the current situation did not need another crisis escalation involving armed youth groups. This will only facilitate the thickening of the fog of war that is surrounding South Sudan and create further conflicting reports regarding the “White Army.” Without a clear view of the battle ground youth groups can pitch communities against communities and instigate further fighting along ethnic lines. Gen. Johnson also stated that group of this nature are not only unpredictable but could cause a “vicious cycle of violence” within the conflict.
Written by Anthony Clark