Unity State Governor Dr. Joseph Monytuil (wearing a brown Kaunda suit) and SSPDF soldiers watch the execution by firing squad in late 2022 of suspected SSPM/A rebels accused of killing the former Mayom County commissioner. (Courtesy photo)

SPLA-IO, Unity State govt trade accusations over Monday’s clashes as governor survives ambush

The Sudan People`s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) and the Unity State government were on Monday involved in a blame game about who triggered clashes between the SPLA-IO and SSPDF soldiers in Unity State.

The Sudan People`s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) and the Unity State government were on Monday involved in a blame game about who triggered clashes between the SPLA-IO and SSPDF soldiers in Unity State.

According to a state official, the fighting erupted when Governor Dr. Joesph Nguen Monytuil was ambushed which resulted in the killing of several SSPDF soldiers and the wounding of two senior SSPDF officers.

However, Col. Lam Paul Gabriel, the SPLA-IO spokesperson, told Radio Tamazuj that there was a coordinated attack on their base from Mayom and that another group led by Unity State Governor Joseph Nguen Monytuil attacked their position in Nyuel Nyuel.

“This was a coordinated attack by two forces from the SSPDF, one came from Mayom commanded by Gen. Tito Biel Wie and then the second was by the governor himself, by the commander of SSPDF’s Division Four who left from Rubkona,” he charged.

Col. Lam accused Governor Monytuil of intentionally attacking the SPLA-IO base, saying if he wanted to cross to an SPLA-IO-controlled area, he should have communicated to their commanders on the ground.

“The place where the incident (clashes) happened was our base. Not the road or any place, but our base. If he (the governor) knows that he is going to cross to come to our base, he should have called and informed our commander,” he said. “Being the head of security in the state, you cannot just come to the base of the SPLA-IO without informing or getting permission from the SPLA-IO commanders or going to the Joint Defense Board which is chaired by SSPDF Chief Gen. Santino Deng Wol.”

He said the SSPDF Chief of Defense Forces is supposed to give the governor an okay and or inform the SPLA-IO commander on the ground that the head of security of the state will be visiting the latter’s territory for a peace mission and not fight.

“That is the procedure in implementing an agreement but not what happened today,” Col. Lam added.

The SPLA-IO spokesperson said this is not the first time their base is being attacked and it has not come as a surprise.

“It is not only today, we know we have been attacked on several occasions by the forces loyal to the governor himself. Mir Mir Cantonment Center which is a peace center, was destroyed by the forces led by the commissioner of Koch County,” he explained. “Recently, Maguek Gai defected from SPLA-IO and we were attacked in our base and we are not surprised that this is happening. However, we need this to stop, it cannot continue like this because we are implementing a peace agreement and we are all South Sudanese.”

When reached for comment, Unity State Information Minister David Gai accused the SPLA-IO of attacking the convoy of the state governor and wounding senior SSPDF military officers. He said the incident happened at Nyuel Nyuel area when Governor Monytui was headed for an official tour of Mayom County.

Gai identified the wounded senior SSPDF officers as Major General Matai Gai and the other as an SSPDF Military Intelligence officer he did not name and said the duo are now receiving treatment in hospital.

“What happened this (Monday) afternoon was not fighting but an ambush on Governor Dr. Joseph Nguen Monytuil who was touring the areas in some parts of Unity State,” he emphasized. “As he left in the morning to see the civilians who are living alongside the road when going to Mayom, he was ambushed on the road by SPLA-IO forces and there were casualties.”

Minister Gai added: “Some of the soldiers died and an SSPDF Major General and Military Intelligence officer were wounded in that ambush.”

He noted that the number of casualties has not yet been confirmed as the area where the incident happened has no mobile telephone network.

Gai revealed that the governor survived the incident and returned to the state headquarters and that the situation is currently calm.

“It is not clear up to now how many SSPDF soldiers were killed because there is no network where it happened so we are still collecting information from the commanders. Once we get the names and number of people killed, I will update you,” he promised, and added,   “The governor did not continue and came back as soon as the convoy was ambushed. As we speak, the governor is in Bentiu and the situation is calm as the SPLA-IO forces who intended to harm the governor fled the place after being repulsed by the SSPDF.”

Meanwhile, when contacted, SSPDF Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang confirmed that there was fighting in Unity State but said he is yet to reach the commanders on the ground and get the details.