South Sudan SPLA General Marach Akoon was killed in an ambush along the Yei-Juba road as UN food stocks were looted in at least two war-torn states. Akoon was killed along with two bodyguards when an RPG hit the vehicle that was carrying the general to Yei town where Akoon was to replace defected General Peter Tut.
Akoon is the third top-ranking SPLA officer to be killed since Dec. 15, when the crisis in South Sudan broke out. Previously, General Abraham Jangroor and General Kuol Malith had been killed as part of the same campaign–the campaign for Bor city, 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
General Malual Ayom Dor had also been reported killed in the campaign for Bor, but Dor later gave an interview to announce that he was alive and well. Another general, Johnson Gony Biliu, was reported to have been the target of an attack which took place 33 miles (54 kilometers) east of Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile State. Biliu reported the attack as an assassination attempt. In battles around Upper Nile State in recent days, rebels attacked SPLA forces and captured trucks, tanks and machine guns.
Bentiu, the Unity State capital, is now totally controlled by the government. Bentiu was retaken by the government after fighting last weekend. Fighting between rebels and SPLA soldiers took place in several locations in Unity State, including Dolieb Hill and Baliet county.
Bentiu is badly damaged. Houses, shops and vehicles have been looted and burned to ashes. General James Hoth Mai, SPLA Chief of Staff, stated, “What you see here is destruction. But the rebels are on the run and we are pursuing them.”
Unity is an oil-producing state. Unity produces 45,000 barrels per day, about a fifth of South Sudan’s total production. Unity state is therefore an important strategic location and bargaining position in the peace talks. Rebels in Unity state have damaged oil facilities, according to government Information Minister Michael Lueth.
The government army, however, stated that they had taken the rebels’ tanks and Land Cruisers, and predicted that the rebels would not return because they now lacked sufficient weaponry.
As the South Sudan SPLA general was killed in an ambush on the Yei-Juba road, about 10 percent of the UN’s relief food stocks were reported to have been looted. Most of the looting has taken place in Jonglei and Unity states, where the most serious and prolonged battles have been fought over Bor and Bentiu cities.
Before the conflict broke out in mid-December, the UN’s World Food Programme in South Sudan had already taken measures to prepare for the floods, drought and conflicts that are common in the region. The WFP had pre-positioned approximately 30,000 metric tons of food at almost 100 sites in South Sudan.
The 3,000 metric tons that were looted would be enough to feed 180,000 people for one month. The food provisions included sorghum and other nutritious foods.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture organization has stated that even before the crisis erupted in South Sudan, 4.4 million South Sudanese people were facing food insecurity in 2014. The current crisis could, therefore, cause a food security and nutrition crisis.
Part of the problem is that the conflict has caused many South Sudanese–almost 400,000, according to current UN estimates–to become displaced. Livestock, food stocks, seeds and agriculture have been abandoned or looted. Refugees who have taken their livestock with them have difficulty finding water and pasture for their herds. Animal vaccines have also been damaged. Trade and commodity routes have also been disrupted and shops destroyed, causing traders to flee and markets to completely or partially shut down.
The South Sudanese SPLA general was killed in an ambush about 19 miles outside of Juba as the UN reported its WFP food stocks had been looted in Jonglei and Unity states. Jonglei and Unity, along with Upper Nile, are the main states currently seeing conflict in South Sudan.
By Day Blakely Donaldson