The minister of information and communication in the Abyei Special Administrative Area on Sunday said a dual attack by SSPDF and armed youth from Warrap State’s Twic County on the Area’s Rumamer and Alal counties left 32 people dead and 20 others injured.
According to Minister Bulis Koch who also doubles as the administrative area’s spokesperson, said a Ghanaian peacekeeper with the United Nations Interim Security Force Abyei was among the dead. He said four of the attackers were found dead in Malual Aleu and two other attackers were also found dead after the fighting in Rumamer County.
The Abyei official blamed Sunday’s attacks on the villages of Angot, Wincuei, and Nyiel in Abyei on the armed Twic youth locally known as “Titweng” who he said were backed by SSPDF soldiers and a militia group led by Gai Machiek.
“There was a confrontation on Sunday morning in two counties but now it has calmed a little bit because UNISFA intervened and pushed back the SSPDF in Malual Village in Alal County and the Titweng armed youth from Twic together with their ally Gai Machiek were repulsed too,” he explained.
“The total number of civilians killed on both sides is 32. Of this, 27 were killed in Rumamer County including Mayot, the former commissioner there, and 5 others were also killed including a Ghanaian soldier from UNISFA in Malual Aleu village. 20 people sustained bullet injuries, 18 people were injured in Rumamer County and 2 in Malual Aleu village.”
Minister Koch said the wounded from both locations are receiving medical treatment at Abyei Hospital.
He explained that the former commissioner of Rumamer County died as a result of a road ambush by Twic youth and their allied forces led by Gai Machiek in Wunpeth village.
Interestingly, Gai Machiek and his militia are believed to be loyal to Gen. Stephen Buay Rolnyang who leads the rebel outfit South Sudan People’s Movement/ Army (SSPM/A).
“There is evidence that SSPDF is involved in these killings of people in Alal and Rumamer counties. There is a video circulating now in social media and when attackers were repulsed, 4 soldiers dressed in civilian clothes were found dead in Malual Aleu and the 2 others died in Rumamer, one of whom was wearing an SSPDF uniform,” Koch added.
For his part, Gen. Akuei Ajou, the SSPDF Third Division commander, denied the involvement of the army, saying it is a professional force that is responsible for defending the country and her people.
“Our soldiers did not attack any village. I am now at the SSPDF Division Three Headquarters in Wunyiik near Aweil in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State and I do not have any knowledge about this incident. Our brigade is stationed at Machar Akoon under my command,” he said. “Last week, armed youth from Abyei attacked the army’s Ayuok military base but there is no army attacking villages because SSPDF’s mandate is to protect the nation and civilians.”
Gen Ajou accused Abyei officials of trying to drag him into the conflict.
“I am not a tribal officer but a national officer. When I went there, I told the Abyei and Twic communities to desist from fighting and I used to walk with Kuol Alor and talk about peace,” he stated. “I have no interest in Abyei or Twic. My relatives like Akuei Ajou and Ajou Ajou were killed in the conflict there so how can I fight a civilian who does not know anything.”
“I went to Ethiopia (to join the liberation struggle) because of civilians, now how can I turn around and kill them?” the officer asked.