Feb 17, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — One of Riek Machar’s most outspoken generals in support of the SPLA-IO war effort has no record of frontline command experience and became a “general” without ever having led men in battle, according to an investigation carried out by Radio Tamazuj.
Brigadier-General Lul Ruai Koang, who serves as Riek Machar’s military spokesman, has been a vocal proponent of the use of violent means to overthrow the government of Salva Kiir.
He has authored numerous statements on conflict events that later proved to be unreliable, announcing in April, for example, the capture of Renk — a city that still remains in government hands — and in July announcing falsely a “major internal revolt” in Yei area.
Last December, he claimed SPLA-IO was responsible for an attack on civilian vehicles on the Juba-Nimule road — a claim his own movement almost immediately retracted — and he warned of further violence in the relatively calm region, declaring, “It has exploded today in Equatoria.”
In another inflammatory statement in April he claimed that “300 Nuer civilians” were killed on orders of a Dinka general in Gerger in Upper Nile, adding, “pregnant women had their stomachs cut open” and fetuses killed during the alleged massacre — which was not elsewhere reported.
In the same month, amid widespread fear and rumour following actual documented massacres elsewhere in the country, Lul used regional terms euphemistically for Dinka- and Nuer-inhabited areas announcing the beginning of an “imminent bloodbath” and “escalation” between the two sides, “perfectly pitting Greater Bahr El Ghazal against Greater Upper Nile State.”
In a report in October, Lul claimed that 52 Nuer government soldiers were summarily executed by their own colleagues and their bodies dumped in the Sobat River. Though he said SPLA-IO troops recovered the bodies from the river and buried them, the rebel group never offered any further evidence of Lul’s claim, and the alleged atrocity was not mentioned again.
Also in October, Lul boasted that SPLA-IO troops killed a Ugandan woman with a civilian ID card at a place called Zinc, claiming she was a soldier, while publishing also a photo of the bloated body of a man in apparently civilian clothing saying he was a Ugandan soldier killed at Doleib Hill, an area far from the Ugandan army’s declared area of operations.
Lul claimed these as “undeniable proofs that Uganda had heavily deployed forces in all the ten states of the Republic of South Sudan and that it’s not only confined to the protection of vital installations in Juba, Bor and Gadiang as previously reported or thought.”
Throughout 2014 as conflict raged in South Sudan, most if not all of Lul’s media statements and interviews were made from Ethiopia or Kenya, where Lul used to live.
Born in the Lou Nuer territory in Akobo in Jonglei State in approximately 1973, Lul traveled to Kenya as a refugee during the previous civil war and lived there for a long period of time at Kakuma refugee camp, according to a Nuer source from Akobo.
He later attended Ruiru High School in Nairobi and graduated in 1999, according to his Facebook profile, then went on to attend the Kenya Institute of Management studying human resources management in the class of 2000.
For five years after completing his studies he worked in civilian roles with UN agencies in South Sudan, from 2003 to 2008. He told Radio Tamazuj that he worked for the UN Mine Action Service for two years, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for two years, and the Resident Coordinator’s office for one year.
The circumstances under which Lul joined the SPLA are not entirely clear but multiple sources indicated that he first served in the SPLA ‘Red Army’ of child soldiers in the 1980s, left for a long time and then joined South Sudan’s peacetime military after the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
According to a source at the SPLA headquarters, in the army general records there are no records of Lul Ruai being an officer from 1983 to 2005, the time of the war.
A Nuer political source from Lul’s home state Jonglei said that Lul joined the SPLA after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement as a junior officer. Another source said that Lul attended military training for officers at Malou and he was confirmed as a junior officer.
Lul Ruai himself acknowledged this in a later interview, saying he joined the army in 2008. He became an officer after training at Malou. He received further courses at Malou again in 2011 in the area of junior command staff.
Sources say that after his initial officers’ training, Lul worked in several administrative assignments including in the administration department at Magri along the Juba-Bor road and in the administration department in Western Equatoria.
According to Lul himself, he served in Division 2 from 2008 until 2012 in various roles including as head of administration in Brigade 9 in Kapoeta and also as an administrator at the Division 2 headquarters and as an adminstrator at Brigade 8 in Western Equatoria State.
“For the four years before I went for courses [in Ethiopia], I was an administrator in the army, I did military administration.”
Promotion to general
Sources provided conflicting information on whether Lul was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general by the South Sudanese army or by the rebel SPLA-IO, but the weight of evidence suggests it happened while he was still serving in the then-united SPLA prior to the 2013 split.
However, sources were unaware of why Lul was promoted and how. According to an SPLA source, Lul was sent to military college in Ethiopia at the rank of colonel, and only became a brigadier after defecting to the SPLA-IO in late 2013. This was also stated independently by a second Nuer political source, who said that Lul left Debre Zeit military college without graduating and defected at the rank of colonel.
On the other hand, by Lul’s own account, he became a general within just about two years of joining the army, saying he was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general in 2010. He said in 2013 he was sent along with another nine officers for studies in military science in Ethiopia, where he joined the rebel SPLA-IO after civil war erupted on 15 December 2013.
The SPLA source says nobody knows who promoted Lul to the rank of brigadier. An SPLM-IO source from Lul’s home area interviewed separately was was not able to name any postings in which Lul served as a field commander either before or after the December 2013 crisis.
“I am not sure where he worked as a field commander. I don’t know about the combats he fought as an SPLA officer,” he said.
Child soldiers, then and now
Sources pointed to Lul’s ‘Red Army’ involvement as a time when he may have gained military experience, though this would not have involved command experience. According to Lul’s own account, moreover, during most if not all of the time he spent in the Red Army he was still only a child. “I joined the army when I was about 13 to 14 years old,” Lul told Radio Tamazuj.
Specifically, Lul first was recruited by the Anyanya Two at Doleib Hill in 1987, the same year that many of the Anyanya Two joined the SPLA. In subsequent years, he was deployed with other child soldiers under several different commanders in various areas including for training in Ethiopia and near Juba during the Bright Star Campaign in 1991 and in Kapoeta town.
After the 1991 split and formation of the SPLA-Torit and SPLA-Nasser factions, Lul joined deserting forces under Wang Thiok Koriom on a march north from the Juba front. “We went to Liria, Torit and then Lofon, and from there we crossed the Tigling desert until we reached Waat area in October ,” Lul recalled.
Later he was released from his years of service as a child soldier by Riek Machar’s SPLA-Nasser faction and moved to Kenya for studies. He returned to Machar’s service more than two decades later, hailing a new war as another fight for freedom.
-Courtesy of Radio Tamazuj