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Calm returns to Malakal after heavy clashes

Atekdit Mawien
Sources in Malakal town have said that relative calm has returned after heavy confrontation between gubernatorial guards and the forces allied to the SPLA General, Johnson Olony Thubo.
29.04.2015  |  Juba
Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces guarding the airport in Malakal, January 12, 2014.
Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces guarding the airport in Malakal, January 12, 2014.

The fighting that started on April 21, ended with Olony’s forces dislodging Governor Simon Kun’s protection unit and other Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces leaving the town under Olony’s control.

General Olony is a former militia commander who fought against the government of South Sudan until 2013 when his group agreed to the general amnesty decreed by President Salva Kiir Mayardit to forces fighting against his regime.

Gen. Olony is still in connection with SPLA general headquarters.”
Philip Aguer
Olony’s factions mostly hail from his ethnic community of Shilluk in South Sudan.

The recent fighting has killed several people in the town. Government institutions and homes have been destroyed.

It extends a series of clashes in the region, which Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said has caused some 6,000 people to flee their homes in Malakal, which is located near the border with Sudan.

There was widespread surprise when General Olony said he was turning against the Juba government but SPLA spokesperson Col. Philip Aguer Panyang cast doubt on his statement, saying: Gen. Olony is still in connection with SPLA general headquarters. His communication with us is on. He has not announced his defection. We can’t say that he has defected without himself (Gen. Olony) saying it.”

The forces of General Olony are said to have withdrawn to the west of the White Nile River within the Shilluk Kingdom but some unit has remained in Malakal.

Our SPLA forces have now entered Malakal. There is no more confrontation.”
Philip Aguer
Our SPLA forces have now entered Malakal. There is no more confrontation. Some unit of forces loyal to Olony is also in Malakal and they are peaceful with the SPLA. The investigation will find out the cause of the fight,” Aguer said.
Last week the SPLM political bureau decided that the Defence Minister, Gen. Kuol Manyang Juuk should visit Malakal to defuse the conflict. However, when asked whether Manyang has since travelled, Col. Aguer denied having knowledge of the Minister’s visit to the scene.

I don’t know about Gen. Kuol’s visit,” adding, the SPLA high command will form an investigatory committee to Malakal. However, it is not yet clear who will lead that committee; until now we don’t know when the committee will come there.”

Fighting erupted in the South Sudan’s third major town of Malakal early last Tuesday with government officials accusing the soldiers allied to General Johnson Olony of blocking the gubernatorial guards as they were taking their sick colleague to the hospital.

Some soldiers attacked the gubernatorial guards in Malakal on Tuesday, evening. The guards were taking to the hospital their colleague who was sick. They were stopped and prevented by Olony’s group not to take their person to the hospital. Immediately when the guards turned their car back, they were shot at. Two guards were killed and two more were injured and the car was captured. This resulted into the fight that lasted until midnight,” Upper Nile Minister, Gatluak Liphoth earlier on stated.

General Olony has been fighting alongside government forces against the opposition fighters of Riek Machar since the conflict began in the region.

Also read:
South Sudan: Nomads of war - perpetual displacements of South Sudanese families in Upper Nile
Thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan and with aid agencies saying that more than a million have fled their homes since fighting between supporters of President Kiir and his former Vice President Machar started in South Sudan in December 2013.

During the recent confrontation within government forces many more people have fled to the United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) camp for safety. The state’s top officials, including the deputy governor, were displaced to bushes southeast of Malakal town last week but are now planning to return.

South Sudan’s economic situation has worsened with the drop of the world’s oil price as the country gains more than 90 percent of its income from oil and the ongoing fighting has led to oil wells being shutdown in Unity State.
South Sudan’s warring forces have signed a number of peace deals in Addis Ababa but these have repeatedly collapsed, with both sides accusing each other of violating the deals.