As I wrote yesterday, something is going down in South Sudan. Here’s a few updates:
- Former VP Riek Machar is still missing. (My #WhereIsRiek hashtag still needs some love). His home has been raided and much of the property destroyed. In his press conference yesterday, President Salva Kiir referred to Riek as a “Prophet of Doom” and alluded to the events of 1991 in which Riek, Lam Akol, and Gordon Kong defected from the SPLA. Note that the events of 1991 unleashed a “civil war within a civil war” in South Sudan, and the fact that Salva is pushing this narrative and we have no response from Riek is potentially problematic. If this crisis continues to escalate, South Sudan runs the risk of this very political crisis crossing the ethnic conflict line – a line that will be difficult to uncross.
- Salva Kiir has been meeting with top Nuer leaders, such as Minister of Education John Gai Yoh, Speaker of the Assembly Magok Rundial, Unity State Caretaker Governor Joseph Nguen Monytuel, and Upper Nile State Governor Simon Kun Puoch. At the same time, the presidential spokesman is downplaying the ethnic/tribal conflict narrative, saying that Dinka et al were involved in the (alleged) coup attempt. Indeed, the presidency confirmed that Oyai Deng Ajak, Gier Chuang, Majak d’Agoot, Madut Bair, Deng Alor, Kosti Manibe, Cirino Hiteng, John Luk, and Chol Tong Mayay are being held at the house of Inspector-General of Police Pieng Deng Kuol. (In fact, the Government of South Sudan released a list of names of those arrested and sought in this ‘foiled coup attempt’.) But note that while the government downplays the ethnic narrative, there have been unconfirmed reports on Twitter that door-to-door searches of Nuer and Dinka are taking place in Juba. I’m hoping that this can be attributed to poor command and control of the security forces rather than to a concerted government policy. Meanwhile, the blog PaanLuel Wël discourages the “two-tribalization” of what’s going on in South Sudan. Surely, the #JubaCrisis cannot be reduced to this. Regardless of what may or may not be going on, I’m starting to wonder if the government’s roundup of multiethnic “Machar co-plotters” is partly to show that this dispute is not ethnic – even while they continue to peddle the 1991 narrative.
- @Nation_Courier reports fighting outside Juba, at SPLA divisions in Bor, Jonglei State and Mapel, Western Bahr al Ghazal State. (This is a new source to me, and I haven’t seen SPLA Division fighting outside Juba, in particular, reported elsewhere, so take this with a grain of salt.) Just for reference, Jonglei state has long been unstable, so reports of violence there – whether related to events in Juba – is generally to be expected. Also for reference, Mapel is the location of Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) facilities to deal with ex-combatants from the civil war.
- Rebecca Garang, widow of John Garang, gave an interview to BBC News, stating that the Nuer who are moving around “are being killed” and that the government would like to arrest her, but “know there would be repercussions.” As a result, they are allowing her to stay in her home. In the interview, she alludes to the coup narrative being used to crack down on SPLM dissidents, and says the president won’t see her, even though she lives close to his residence.
Since I’m not in Juba, I continue to get my news from Twitter, so here’s a list of people you should be following:
- @HannahMcNeish and @JamesCopnall are passing along some great information and quotes from interview sources, as have @RadioTamazuj, @RadioDabanga, and @RadioMiraya. Although not reporters, @Sunday_Jimmy, @IanECox, and @SamRosmarin have also been passing on good information.
- People in Juba have been giving sitreps on the state of affairs in their parts of Juba: @E_Poli, @RichardRuati, @HannnahGram, @MichelleDelaney, @JSwiiiss, @MadingNgor, @TobyLanzer, @VMMoncrieff, @HosannaFox, and @DreadlockDipset.
So to wrap up, the situation is still very much unfolding in South Sudan and we have many “known unknowns.”