11 January 2014

South Sudan: Rebels Call Bentiu Defeat a 'Tactical Withdrawal', Uganda's Involvement Reveals

Photo: Charlton Doki/IPS
Oil storage facilities at Bentiu, Unity State..

South Sudan's rebel forces loyal to the former South Sudanese Vice President Dr. Riek Machar said that government soldiers with help from Uganda and Sudan's rebels took over Bentiu on Friday and described the situation as a "tactical withdrawal" to circumvent civilian casualties.

The rebels further asserted that their decision to withdraw from Bentiu should not be interpreted as a defeat.

SPLA spokeman Philip Aguer said government troops seized Bentiu on Friday.

"It happened this afternoon at 2:30pm", Aguer told Reuters.

The defected forces also said that Kampala and the rebels of the troubled Darfur region of Sudan are being used by Kiir as "mercenaries", saying Juba does not have ability to crush them

"Our forces made a tactical withdrawal to avoid civilian casualties", Lul Ruai Koang, a spokesman for the rebels' military told reporters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

"The government does not have the capacity to defeat us militarily", Koang affirmed.

However, Koang added that oil wells in Unity State are still under the control of the rebels.

Uganda's military involvement in South Sudan

Uganda is widely suspected of fighting alongside with forces loyal to President Kiir. Most South Sudanese believe that the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has chosen Kiir's side.

However, for the first time, two Ugandan military sources who spoke to Reuters News Agency revealed that Uganda is deeply involved militarily in South Sudan current conflict.

"In Bor, our boys have been backing up the SPLA in the latest push to retake it", a Ugandan military officer told Reuters.

"Yesterday [Thursday] our MiGs [warplanes] conducted two bombings there", the officer added.

The new revelation over Kampala's involvement in Juba's affairs could strengthen rebels' claim, perhaps, fuel the conflict.

President Kiir accuses his political adversaries of an "attempted coup". But, senior members of the ruling SPLM party argue that Salva Kiir lost politically and that he chooses to fabricate a 'coup' in an attempt to try to eliminate them.

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