July 14, 2016 (JUBA) – At least three bodyguards of Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang, spokesperson for the South Sudanese army (SPLA) loyal to President Salva Kiir, have been killed allegedly by their colleagues as Juba violence at times resorted to targeting ethnicities, sources told Sudan Tribune.
Koang however confirmed toSudan Tribune that his bodyguards were actually killed, but denied that they were targeted by their colleagues.
The three bodyguards were killed on Monday inside the town even after fighting had stopped between rival forces loyal to President Kiir and those loyal to his deputy, Riek Machar.
Koang, a Nuer by ethnicity who earlier defected from Machar’s rebel group and joined to the government, has been silent and could not talk about the Monday incident, probably due to fear that he could be targeted if he accused his colleagues of killing his bodyguards.
It was not clear if he was the target that resulted to the killing of his bodyguards.
The incident followed Sunday attacks on the houses of General Peter Bol Kong, President Kiir’s appointed new governor of the newly created Bieh state, and General Charles Lam, Commander of Sector 3. The two men, although from Nuer community, had been loyal to President Salva Kiir during the two years of war which ended in August 2015.
Sources earlier told Sudan Tribune that both General Kong and General Lam have been taking refuge at a United Nations camp of Tongping near Juba airport after narrowly escaping death on Sunday. It was not clear why the two army Generals were targeted.
There are also reports that the Jieng [Dinka] Council of Elders (JCE), a Dinka tribal informal advisory body composed of Dinka intellectuals and senior government officials, have been approaching their two ministers on the side of Machar, Dhieu Mathok and Mabior Garang, to defect to President Kiir.
Earlier, on Sunday, another Dinka senior General, Dau Aturjong, defected from Machar’s faction and declared to rejoin President Kiir’s army. It was alleged that the Dinka Council of Elders successfully convinced him to leave Machar.
Sources from the opposition faction loyal to Machar also told Sudan Tribune that a Nuer General, Peter Gatdet Yak, who earlier defected from Machar, has now declared to rejoin him after the recent fighting.
There are fears that the ongoing targeting and defections based on ethnicity may further polarize the political and insecurity situations in the country.
When asked by Sudan Tribune to confirm the death of his bodyguards, SPLA spokesperson, Brig General Lul Ruai Koang, said it was true, but said they were not killed by their colleagues. He explained that they were killed in action in Gudele suburb inside Juba town while battling forces loyal to First Vice President, Machar.
As for Governor General Peter Bol Kong, also confirmed that he ran to UNMISS camp, but added that this was because his house came under heavy gunfire, as there was no safe exit except the UNMISS camp which was the nearest to him. He did not say who attacked his house.
Governor Kong later on Monday left UNMISS and moved to a hotel. He appeared on the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC) on Wednesday to dispute the reports he was targeted.
He said he was even advised by the chief of general staff, Paul Malong Awan, to go to UNMISS to avoid being caught in the cross fire, as his residence was between the building in which armed individuals were firing at whoever passed around the vicinity of the building and where government forces were trying to identify them.