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Heavy gunfire erupts in Western Bahr el Ghazal’s Wau town amid reports of SPLA defections


April 27, 2014 (JUBA) – Explosions and sustained heavy gunfire were heard in South Sudan’s Western Bahr el Ghazal state capital of Wau, government officials and military sources said on Sunday.

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Soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) patrol near burnt houses in Unity state capital Bentiu on 12 January 2014 (Photo: AFP/Simon Maina)

A military officer with knowledge of the situation told Sudan Tribune there had been shooting throughout Saturday night, sparking panic among civilians in town.

Eyewitnesses said sounds of heavy machine guns continue to be heard in Buseri, on the outskirts south-west of the town, despite attempts by the local command to avert the situation from developing into ethnic-based killings following mass defections from the army

It remains unclear what sparked the fighting in the area, which has witnessed relative calm since conflict erupted in mid-December last year in the country’s capital, Juba, before spreading to other parts of the country.

State deputy governor Zachariah Garang confirmed the shooting but said the situation was now under control.

“There were shootings in the night here and there, which caused panic in the town, but everything is OK now. Security organs are patrolling the area. There is no problem at the moment,” Garang said on Sunday.”

Garang attributed the gunfire to a defection of troops from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) to rebel forces led by Riek Machar.

“It was worrying yesterday (Saturday) when the population heard of defections within the army. Senior military officers have defected and fled into the bush. Some of them ran towards the direction of Abushaka in the west of Wau town. Others ran towards Aweil north of Wau,” Garang told Sudan Tribune, adding that he was still gathering further details.

The deputy governor said the state administration deployed joint patrols in the town to avoid ethnic-based killings, adding that they are trying to “contain anger”.

“The objective of deploying joint patrols is to avert ethnic killing. So the priority was to contain the anger with the deployment of the security forces on the street,” he said.

Several military sources in Wau town confirmed the defection of four army generals, claiming that they had foiled the attack on the town.

“Four brigadier generals have defected. They have gone with a huge force. They went with nearly a brigade. They wanted to launch an attack to capture the town on Friday night but this plot was foiled because they were not in control of heavy machine guns and had no access to weapons and ammunition stores. They only had small firearms,” a senior military officer told Sudan Tribune in an exclusive interview on Sunday.

He said the head of military police and the overall officer for administrative and officer affairs for the Bahr el Ghazal region, comprising four states, have defected. Other officers included an officer in charge of the gubernatorial guard force and the head of administrative and finance for the army’s fifth division.

“All the Nuer officers and soldiers except the brigadier general who was recently wounded in Bentiu fighting have gone. The wounded officer is in the United Nations [base]. He has now been joined by the wives of those who defected and fled,” said the officer.

Multiple eyewitnesses confirmed that shooting occurred during the night but claimed it was carried out by the government troops and police forces in the town to prevent unarmed members of the Nuer ethnic group from entering the UN base in the area.

“The security situation yesterday was tense and it remains tense. The shops in Sukjow and Wau town remained closed. There is limited movement in town as I speak to you. All the streets are controlled by the army and the police. This is because of the shooting that took place last night. There was heavy firing at the airport and all over in town. People did not sleep. We were praying for the morning to come. It was a long night,” Jacob Bol Deng, a resident of Wau town, said in an interview with Sudan Tribune.


Observers have expressed grave concerns that unarmed civilians, largely members of the Nuer ethnic group, risk being attacked and killed by the local population as they attempt to leave the area.

“My biggest fear now is that the angry youth in the local population, especially those whose relatives were killed in the states of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile during this conflict fighting on the government side, may attack and kill the unarmed members of Nuer community,” an analyst told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.

“Our communities have been misled by the cause of this conflict and they will not differentiate between rebel fighters and those innocent Nuer community members running away for their lives. Actually those who have now fled acted out of fear of uncertainty. They did not intend to rebel but they feel they would be victimised and killed, just like it happened in Juba and Bor,” he added.

Joe Contreras, head of the media monitoring unit in the public information office of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) confirmed the incident in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Sunday, saying about 700 internally displaced persons had sought entry to its base in the area.


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  • 27 April 2014 22:21, by Rommel

    As usual, Sudan Tribune is citing an unnamed source, positing a terribly untenable claim. I don’t credit unnamed sources. How in the world did an entire brigade ’defect’? Does Sudan Tribune even know how large a brigade is!? Do they honesty think that 3,000 to 5,000 infantrymen defected? And why would they run to Aweil?

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    • 28 April 2014 01:12, by Predicted

      Don’t pee in your pants just yet Rommel. Those are fighting for justice will win. Majority Dinka acted stupidly to the situation from the beginning. Only few like Nyandeng and Mabior acted correctly.

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      • 28 April 2014 03:38, by siddaw

        I wonder why most of the glutonic sons of Nuer always graduate from Ngundeng Primary School to retardiantly grad Junub Sudan to her knees. What democratic govt are u struggling for, yet u’re calling yourself the mighty nuer which aim at clearing Dinka. Do u think you’ll succeed without Dinka mathondit? I urge all the native of Nuer to think like the national figures and not disgraced Nuer.

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        • 28 April 2014 06:12, by Wicdail

          What do you think could prevent Nuer officers to break rank with brutal Dinka-SPLA, when their colleagues the unarmed Nuers, who were in a military academic training camp in Mapeil were brutally murdered by Dinka soldiers from the order of their tribal new gen. chief of staff Malong Awan? you can Kill any Nuer in your backyards, but will never let your tribal regime to win this conflict.

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          • 28 April 2014 07:22, by Mi diit

            Tens of thousands of Nuer soldiers including hundreds of senior officers were deceived that the government was fighting rebels. They are used to fight against their own. Now they come to understand that Mrs Akiir is fighting against the Nuer in general. Many defections will now occur everywhere and Kiir will not survive this summer. The next few months will be decisive.

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            • 28 April 2014 07:53, by Malou Manyiel

              Mi diit, don’t confuse yourself and others. Who killed Bul Nuer civilians last 2 weeks? Wasn’t it the same Nuer? By the way, let me tell you this, if you Nuer keep preaching that the conflict is between Dinka and Nuer as all of you have been saying, then Muonyjang entirely have not joint the conflict yet. Let it first come to that point when all of us (Dinka) joint, we shall see who will win.

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              • 28 April 2014 10:38, by Mi diit

                Are you not the same Dinka we and grand fathers knew. Come in millions cowards. Why did you run for help from Uganda army and SPLA-rebels if you are men? You already declared war on Nuer in Juba and mobilized 15,000 who murdered Nuer. What else. Now the Nuer including Bul you deceive will mobilize against you. Let us see how you will defend yourselves.

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            • 28 April 2014 10:27, by barbayo

              just are Bari who are cowards ,this still not between Dinka and Nuer its government with rebels

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    • 28 April 2014 13:15, by Bentiu son

      Waw!What a tribal conspiracy and regional/international lobbying against Nuer in South Sudan? Well,those Nuer sellout,traitors, betrayers n money blood suckers have got deaf ears about the nature of current conflicts, Some people call it a war bt government n rebels,others call it political war within SPLM while the rest call it tribal war bt Dinka v Nuer. Now! Salva Kiir’s tribal loyalist had

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      • 28 April 2014 13:23, by Bentiu son

        chosen the last ones- which is unachievable ethnic cleaning to exterminated Nuer tribe from South Sudan map mercilessly. Well,human being learn through try and error.Is is not too late for you Nuer sons to join your siblings against those Dinka tribal mindsets individuals led by visionless Salva Kiir, Kuol Manyang,Malong Awan, Makuei Lueth, Malaak Ayuel, Tiller Ring Deng, Alew Ayueny Alew etc

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        • 28 April 2014 13:48, by Bentiu son

          Brave men/women in uniforms do not worries siblings,a man can die anywhere as Nuer warriors believe,we were not born to die at Nuerland but anywhere across the country.We will fight fight till Dinka Kingdom collapse and her leader Salva Kiir resign either peacefully or forcefully through bullets.No reconciliation,healing and no peace talk bt Nuer n Dinka thugs who hate Nuer to death.

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  • 28 April 2014 08:46, by philipdit wol

    well, we had fighting but back to normal it was not to this extend I felt sorry to see this photos.

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  • 28 April 2014 13:03, by Jalaby

    This is really dangerous when it comes to Western Bahr el Ghazal State because this state borders two countries:CAR which is already in great mess and chaos and Sudan (Darfour) and that’s also unpleasant area!
    If wishes, Sudan can transport Nuer rebellion to CAR because there is no central government in CAR, it’s just a mess, and then take SPLA by surprise and attack

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    • 28 April 2014 13:09, by Jalaby

      them from behind and cause a great loss among them!
      If the situation continues to perform like this in the south then the south will soon join CAR and add more chaos to already burning area!
      US should take the responsibility on this because they’re the one who attacked Sudan by cruise missiles and destroyed the Shifa Factory till pushed Sudan to release the south!!

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