South Sudan Conflict: December 20, 2013 – January 1, 2014

For the full list of conflict maps and political events surrounding the recent crisis in South Sudan, please visit the conflict mapping page dedicated to the issue.

Following the outbreak of fighting in Juba on December 15, violence spread throughout Greater Upper Nile and parts of eastern Bahr el-Ghazal area (Warrap, Lakes). On December 26, the presidents of Kenya and Ethiopia arrived to meet with Kiir and begin the process of setting up peace negotiations in Addis Ababa. Kiir subsequently began releasing political prisoners held in connection with the “coup attempt” on December 15, but several remained incarcerated. Even as Kiir and Machar flew to Ethiopia to attend IGAD-brokered talks, fighting continued in Unity and in Bor, with both sides refusing to adhere to a ceasefire.

Unity: After deadly ethnic clashes between oilfield employees at the Unity and Thar-jath oilfields, fighting broke out within the SPLA 4th Division on December 20 in Bentiu and Rubkona. By December 21, James Koang Chol of the 4th Division declared himself governor of Unity, and it later was confirmed that he and his forces are loyal to Riek Machar. Evacuation of foreign nationals continued throughout the country, with China’s CNPC reportedly evacuating workers from Unity. The oilfields were subsequently shut down, while South Sudan continued to produce oil in Upper Nile state. SPLA forces loyal to President Kiir were reported to have left Bentiu/Rubkona and joined with Mathew Pul Jang’s SSLA force that was awaiting reintegration in Mayom after accepting amnesty from Kiir in April 2013. Maj. Gen. Pul Jang claimed to have a force of 5,000, but ostensibly that number had dwindled over the months that the soldiers were awaiting reintegration. SSLA leaders advised civilians and UN staff to leave Bentiu before they launched an offensive to dislodge rebel forces from the state capital. Contrary to SSLA declarations, it was they who were attacked by pro-Machar forces from Bentiu as the fighting spread to Abiemnhom and Mayom counties. SPLA contingents in the Jau Garrison and the area of Pariang also reportedly defected and clashed with pro-government forces in the Pariang area on several occasions between December 21 and January 1.

Jonglei: Bor was taken by rebel forces under Gadet on December 18. On December 20, rebels allegedly shot down a UN helicopter in northern Jonglei, and on December 21, they shot at US aircraft attempting to evacuate US citizens from Bor, forcing the aircraft to abandon their mission. Riek Machar accused Ugandan planes of bombing Bor, but Uganda strongly denied this accusation and there were no outside reports of the presence of Ugandan aircraft over Jonglei. Fighting in Bor, Gumuruk, and Likuangole was reported to have continued. Government forces recaptured Bor on December 25, amid heavy fighting both within the town and on its northern edge. One of the most startling developments was the report on December 28 that Nuer youth had organized into the “White Army”, an armed force composed of youth, ex-soldiers, and cattle keepers that has emerged during ethnic conflicts and was involved in heavy fighting during the Nasir Coup of 1991. According to some reports, many of the mobilized youth peeled off from their advance on Bor between December 28 and December 31, but many may have joined rebel forces that recaptured Bor on December 31. On January 1, SPLA forces reported that they had withdrawn to the Malual-Chaat area, just south of Bor town.

Central Equatoria: The border checkpoints on the way to Uganda and Kenya reportedly reopened on the 20th, leading to frantic evacuation from Juba and several road accidents. Fighting between SPLA soldiers loyal to the president and forces that had defected were reported at Mogiri, Mongalla, and Terekeka between December 20 and December 25, with unknown numbers of casualties.

Lakes: On December 22, a contingent of SPLA defectors left Rumbek East and traveled toward Unity, killing at least four people during their defection and allegedly attempting to loot cattle on their way out of Lakes state.

Upper Nile: Rebel forces attacked Malakal on December 24 and claimed to have captured the town. Rebels also allegedly fought SPLA contingents in Paloich oilfields on December 24 and in the Khor Adar oilfield area on December 26. Reports suggest that Shilluk militia commander Johnson Uliny (Olony/Olonyi) was fighting alongside SPLA forces loyal to President Kiir. SPLA forces claimed that they had recaptured Malakal on December 27 amid fierce fighting, particularly in Hai Mataar (near the airport).

 

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