May 16, 2015 (Nyamilepedia) — South Sudan’s army has admitted losing Malakal town, the capital of oil rich Upper Nile region, to opposition forces led by Maj. Gen. Johnson Olony.
Fighting started yesterday evening after Gen. Olony’s forces accused government forces of launching attacks on their positions around Malakal.
The army spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer, while speaking to SBS Dinka Radio admits that the government headquarters have lost communication with the field commanders.
“As per now, we have no contact with our soldiers in Malakal but I can confirm that there was a coordinated attack which was led by Olony’s forces jointly with the SPLM in Opposition led by Gen. Tanginya.” army’s spokesperson Philip Aguer told Australia based SBS Radio.
The army spokesperson admitted that Gen. Olony has now left the government and joined hands with opposition forces under the leadership of the country’s former Vice President, Dr Riek Machar.
Alhough the SPLM-IO denies backing the fighting, and the recent capture of Malakal by the militia allied forces, South Sudan’s army spokesperson strongly believes that one of the SPLM-IO’s senior commanders, Maj. Gen. Gabriel Tanginya, is directly linked to the latest assaults on government forces.
Opposition sources, however, indicate that the Anyanya fierce fighter, Maj. Gen. Tanginye, proceeded to Addis Ababa after the SPLM/SPLA Pagak leadership conference and he is yet to return to his assignment.
Fighting started in Dolieb Hills at the out skirts of Malakal where Olony’s forces are mostly based.
According to our correspondent in Malakal town, the fighting intensified and reached Malakal town centre at around 6:30pm, leading to occupation of the towns’ main strategic airport and also the river port.
According to reliable sources on the ground, the opposition forces are now headed towards the country’s only functional oils fields at the norther part of the country, Palouch, a distance of approximately 25 Kms away from Malakal.
Malakal has witnessed many shaky ceasefire deals between the pro-government militia forces, which were reintegrated into the main army systems in mid 2013, and the government forces loyal to Pres. Salva Kiir.
The militia general from the minority shilluck (Chollo) tribe, has fought alongside government troops for the past 16 months of the conflict until last month when his deputy was ambushed and killed by pro-government youth.
Analysts warn that the defection of Gen. Olony, who hails from the Upper Nile’s biggest ethnic group, could switch the balance of powers in the region and dynamics of the conflict in favor of the armed opposition SPLM/SPLA.
Juba has tried many mechanisms including the use of Chollo king and community representatives to resolve the differences between Gen. Olony, and the Governor backed government forces in Malakal but all in vain.