New Rebel Group Emerges in South Sudan

A displaced boy from S. Sudan in Pajok town across the border in northern Uganda (File Photo)A displaced boy from S. Sudan in Pajok town across the border in northern Uganda (File Photo)

A former general in South Sudan’s Army said he commands a new rebel movement of at least 30,000 fighters that will seek to overthrow President Salva Kiir, threatening to deepen the three-year civil war in Africa’s newest nation.

Thomas Cirillo, a former lieutenant general, resigned as deputy chief for logistics in South Sudan’s Army in February, accusing Kiir of waging a “tribally engineered war” and turning the military into a force dominated by the Dinka, the president’s ethnic group, Bloomberg reported.

Cirillo says his National Salvation Front includes four rebel groups and is prepared to challenge his one-time colleagues. That could mean more bloodshed for a conflict that’s already claimed tens of thousands of lives and led to the world’s first official declaration of famine since 2011.

“We are sure, that with few armaments, the light armaments that we have, with revolutionary spirit and zeal, we’ll be able to defeat Kiir’s forces,” Cirillo said in an interview in Addis Ababa, the capital of neighboring Ethiopia.

South Sudan’s presidential spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, dismissed the threat.

South Sudan’s war began in December 2013 after Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting his overthrow. The army fractured, and civilians of Machar’s Nuer community were massacred in the capital, Juba.

It was the first of multiple atrocities by both sides in which specific ethnic groups, including Dinkas, have been targeted.

While the main rebel organization, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition, coalesced around Machar, many other groups have since taken up arms.

Famine was declared in two northern counties of South Sudan in February. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, a US-backed monitoring group, has warned starvation could spread to another county in the July to September lean season.

South Sudan, which holds sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest crude reserves, has seen oil production decline by at least a third to less than 130,000 barrels a day since the war began.


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints