White Army Forces in S. Sudan Stand Down, Mostly
Following more than two weeks of violent conflict that has killed almost 1,000 players and displaced thousands more, the 25,000 man-strong White Army militia has mostly disbanded and returned home, according to a government spokesman for South Sudan.
Michael Makuei Lueth reported that the White Army, comprised of young men of the Nuer tribe, has been persuaded by Nuer tribal leaders and are beginning to stand down, stating, “They have listened to the reasoning and they have accepted to go back. Not all of them, of course. There are some who are resistant. It’s not clear if they will advance. The number which is left is negligible and they may not be able to proceed.”
Lueth went on to report that “About 5,000 refused to abandon the march and they have proceeded with their advance on Bor. They then dislodged (government troops) from Mathiang, about 18 miles from Bor.”
Bor is the capital of the Jonglei State in South Sudan and is a city of much importance. It first started as a city home to Christian missionaries and later became the administrative center for the Dinka tribe, to which current president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, belongs. Bor was also the center of the Second Sudanese Civil War and Bor massacre in 1991, fighting in which the White Army, led by former Vice President of South Sudan Riek Machar, killed an estimated 2,000 Dinkas directly and led to the death of approximately 25,000 more due to famine and displacement.
While most of the members of the White Army (so named due to the ash the soldiers spread on their body to ward away insects) have decided to stand down, member-states of the United Nations are still worried, citing perpetual ethnic and tribal conflict in Africa as the cause of said concern: “South Sudan does not need another escalation of the crisis involving armed youth, pitching communities against communities. This can end in a vicious cycle of violence,” stated U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary General Hilde Johnson.
Fighting in South Sudan started on December 15th when soldiers attacked Juba, the nation’s capital. At the time, many blamed former Vice President Riek Machar for the violence. Machar, who was ousted from the government by President Kiir this summer, denied the allegations, but has since retreated from the city in order to lead opposition forces against the government.
Due to the severity of the violence thus far, and the fragile state of the globe’s newest nation, the UN and the nations of East Africa have called for a cease fire. Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, is leading the charge for Machar to cease hostilities, stating, “We gave Riek Machar four days to respond (to the ceasefire offer) and if he doesn’t we shall have to go for him, all of us.”
When asked what he meant by “go for him”, Museveni simply responded, “to defeat him”.
The four day time limit expires today.
Image via YouTube