SPLA Spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer told journalists in Juba that most of those killed were soldiers. We lost the executive Director, the SPLA lost 11 soldiers, eight soldiers wounded, one police man killed in action, two wildlife (officials) wounded, five civilians killed in cross fire,” Aguer said.
Aguer explained that an unknown group of gunmen attacked and killed two SPLA officers not far from Mundri town last Thursday night, May 21.
Mundri County Executive Director John Cloepa was shot by the unknown group of gunmen as he tried to move to the scene of the incident in the morning of May 22, according to Aguer.
The Western Equatoria State Government however, said the killing of Cleopa was an assassination.
Soldiers in Mundri town lost their emotion and control.”Aguer said on May 22, two more SPLA soldiers were killed at the same location by the gunmen. The SPLA officers were heading to Lakes State. After this incident soldiers in Mundri town lost their emotion and control, and started shooting randomly in the Mundri market. Looting took place,” Aguer said.
Calm finally returned on Sunday, May 24, after an intervention by another department of the SPLA, Aguer said.
Rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar had immediately claimed responsibility for the incident, saying they launched the attacks in their quest to oust President Salva Kiir in power.
But Aguer disputed the claim. This is not true,” Aguer said.
Western Equatoria State Information Minister Charles Barnaba Kisanga told The Niles that Mundri, home to at least 50,000 people, emptied when fighting broke out, with almost everyone running to seek refuge.
Kisanga explained that the situation worsened when a group of angry youth, known as the arrow boys”, also turned on the army for their rampant shooting that forced the people out of town.
He said the incident is part of several others in recent days that have continued to create instability in Mundri town and around Western Equatoria State, adding that this killing is politically motivated”.
Relocate army, justice required
More reconciliatory efforts and justice may be required to build peace and trust between the citizens and the army in Mundri, Kisanga said.
The relation (between the civilians and the army) is not that cordial, because what I hear from the local people is that they are really” angered because they (the army) accused them of going against them and some of them want the whole unit (of the army) to be moved,” Kisanga said.
The Western Equatoria State Government has strongly condemned the incident and called for immediate investigations. Kisanga said, as the County Executive Director was killed in front of the army”, it would be awkward to say” the attack was carried out by rebels.
Kisanga further said that perpetrators need to be brought to justice, which would help restore trust between civilians and the army.