This article was last updated on May 26, 2022
“In my place here in Aweil North county, people are hearing that there are rebels coming from Western Bahr el Ghazal and Aweil West, crossing the river coming to Aweil North. When they arrived in Aweil North, they crossed the river as they were coming to Aweil North, the army destroyed them and they killed a Brigadier General among the rebels”, said Kuol Athuai Hal, the Aweil North county Commissioner.
Kuol dismissed allegations of rebel defections in his county, saying those were unfounded allegations and must not be relied upon by the public. “What I know in my county here is that…there is nobody who has joined the rebels and there are no rebels in Aweil North County.” Hal said, adding that his county was not hostage to any rebel group.
Confirming recent clashes between SPLA and rebel forces in his county, the Commissioner said 35 rebels were killed, including a brigadier General, while the remnants are being pursued by the SPLA. “They didn’t manage to cross the border to Sudan side because our forces here destroyed them. In my area here, we killed 35 from rebel side, including a Brigadier General.” He said.
While acknowledging the reported disappearance of Chief Deng Geng, Commissioner Kuol alleged that claims he had defected were not true, saying the Deng is not a chief but a mere solider with the rank of Sergeant. He further said Deng had retired from the army as a result of mental health problems, leading to his random movement.
He concluded that the rebels had not crossed the border of South Sudan into Sudan, but were dispersed and scattered by the national army into small remnant groups consisting of two to three people.
Aweil West Commissioner, Garang Kuach Ariath, also confirmed the stability of his area, dismissing reports of fighting in Aweil North on Wednesday. He warned the public not to listen to rumours, advising them instead to wait for information from official sources on any attack.
Abductees Speak Out
In the course of a week of fighting in Aweil centre, West and North counties, a number of civilians were abducted by the rebel group in order to lead them to the Sudanese border. After their rescue, the four abductees were able to describe their experiences.
17 year-old Samuel Majok Atugo explained how he was abducted by rebels: “I was coming to Aroyo to buy some dura, when I returned to Umora, but I came like that, they sneaked out from the bush; ]they were[ four people, and many people were behind them with guns. They say that they wanted the road, and that they didn’t want a place where there are soldiers… I told them the soldiers are very far from here, they are in Gok-machar and Nyibuoli. They said they wanted to beat all of us but the two accepted and we follow.” He reported.
50 year-old Chief Deng Uguak Chan was also among the abducted civilians and had been with rebels for four days. He explained to Gurtong’s reporter: “As we were leaving from Aroyo to Awada, taking my cousin for treatment in Awada, we found two vehicles parked on the road. As we were proceeding ahead, we were stopped and told to join the group of those passengers abducted. We were forced to move into the forest and made to sit in groups. We were told that they wanted us to show them the way”.
“They said: ‘Chief Deng, you know this forest very well, show us a way. I said that I don’t this forest, there they argued that there is no Luo/Jurchol that does not know his forest..’ We had to accept because we had no option as they threatened to kill us. We slept in the forest for three days without seeing any home and road. As we moved, they went and found another Dinka whom they arrested and brought to us who was helpful in showing our way for the rest of our journey especially in Chelkou ]Aweil West[.” He said.
20 year-old, Garjuak Garjuak, brother to Hon. Upuothmala Garjuak, described what happened to him.
“We were riding as two people on a motorbike when we came we found a company’s vehicle was detained, the passenger I said that we were being targeted with guns; he saw a gun ahead. I tried to stop … but we were too close with them. We threw down our motorbike and we ran on foot into the bush. We found them already in ambush. I was missed with two bullets; they caught my trousers as I entered into their hideouts and I fell down. They jumped on me and tied me up. We went with them. They took my vest, my shoes and pair of shorts.” He explained.
Four abductees have been rescued so far. Others, perhaps dozens, are suspected to be missing especially in Aweil Centre and Aweil West counties.