Members of the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (TNLA) representing constituencies in the Abyei Administrative Area have condemned Sunday’s attack allegedly orchestrated by elements of the SSPDF and armed youth from Warrap State’s Twic County on the Area’s Rumamer and Alal counties.
On Sunday, Abyei Information Minister Bulis Koch told Radio Tamazuj that the two-pronged attack left 32 dead, including a Ghanaian peacekeeper with the United Nations Interim Security Force Abyei (UNISFA), and 20 others injured.
At a press conference at the Abyei Commission offices in Juba on Sunday evening, Aisha Abbas, a legislator representing Abyei in the TNLA, said lawmakers from Abyei collectively condemned the attack on the Area which she said was carried out by armed Twic youth locally known as “Titweng” who were backed by SSPDF soldiers and a militia group led by Gai Machiek.
“The attack happened early morning on Sunday simultaneously in three places in Abyei. The people who executed this attack were the Titweng militia of Twic County, another militia group led by Gai Machiek, and the elements from the SSPDF’s Division Eleven and Division Three commanded by Maj. Gen. Akuei Ajou,” she said. “This is not the first time Gen. Ajou has been involved in the fighting in Abyei and he was implicated at the beginning of the conflict in 2022 just like this time. So, we appeal to the Chief of Defense Forces of the SSPDF, Gen. Santino Deng Wol, to expeditiously intervene and stop the bloodshed in Abyei.”
“We also want to inform our constituents in Abyei that it is not the entire army, the SSPDF, that is fighting and killing them, but rogue elements because the army is there to protect the territory and people of South Sudan,” Abbas added.
Another lawmaker representing Abyei in the Council of States, Tabitha Chol, explained that Sunday’s attack was unlike previous attacks and that the carnage in Abyei left an elderly woman and her child burned to death among other killings.
“The assailants attacked the villages of the villages of Angot, Wincuei, and Nyiel in Abyei. The attack this time was very different from previous attacks because elements of the army backed up the armed youth from Twic County. We have believed that the SSPDF is a national army which is there to protect all the people of South Sudan and not to be used in revenge attacks” she charged. “The Chief of Defense Forces of the SSPDF to rein in Gen. Ajou and remove him from Abyei because his name has been severally mentioned among the people destabilizing Abyei. It is not possible and right for civilians to fight with the army. Also, a former Abyei minster of infrastructure who also served as commissioner of Rumamer was killed in the attack. We hereby condemn the targeting of defenseless citizens.”
“We want to reassure the people of South Sudan that the people of Abyei did not attack but rather defended themselves,” Chol added.
Meanwhile, Margaret Victor, a lawmaker representing Abyei in the Council of States on the SPLM-IO ticket, said that the people of Abyei were surprised by the presence of SSPDF soldiers among the attackers.
“We are here to sadly announce that our people in Abyei were attacked and killed by armed youth from Twic County who were backed up by the militia of Gai Machiek and the SSPDF. We thought the army was sent there to help contain fighting and maintain peace between Twic and Abyei until the issue is resolved,” she stated. “Unfortunately, news reached us that Gen. Ajou of the SSPDF’s Division Three on the contrary directed the attacks on villages in Abyei leading to 32 deaths and several injuries. Elements of Diviso Eleven also joined the attack on Abyei and this has shocked us.”
“Our question to the leadership of the SSPDF is how did they enter this conflict and why did they kill civilians in Abyei?” Victor asked.