‘Interim government’ in Bentiu declares loyalty to Machar

The ‘interim government’ of South Sudan’s oil-rich Unity State has announced itself loyal to the former vice president of the country, for the first time openly declaring support to the opposition leader.

In an interview on Thursday, the spokesman of the self-declared interim government of the state says that they are now under the direction of Dr. Riek Machar, whose whereabouts are not now known to the public.

Since late last week the state institutions and radio have been under the control of James Koang, SPLA 4th Division Commander, who announced the dissolution of the state government and declared himself military governor. 

The top commander claimed he was forced to act when the commander of his tank unit on Friday tried to kill him at the behest of military leaders in Juba and Governor Joseph Monytuil. 

Since these developments, it was assumed by many including the government in Juba that the mutineers in Unity State were effectively loyal to Machar. However, the new claimant governor had not yet openly declared himself for one party or the other. 

Moses Ruai, spokesman of the new interim government, tells Radio Tamazuj that the state government has cut ties completely with the national government: “The government of Unity State is full under control of former vice president Dr. Riek Machar, and I don’t think that the state government is having contact with Juba any more.” 

Situation calm in Bentiu

Resistance by loyal government forces continues in at least three counties of Unity State – Mayom, Abiemnhom, and Pariang – but the bulk of the 4th Division forces are thought to have joined the mutiny, and the area of the capital is no longer contested.

Ruai, who is also director-general in the state ministry of information said, “Right here situation in Bentiu is good, it’s calm, it’s very normal. People have gone back to work. And also people went for the celebration of Christmas.”

The rebel spokesman added, “Situation is back to normal since three days in Unity State. So we have no any problem, there is no problem at all. The interim government in Unity State, this is under the Division 4, and there is no problem, things are normal.”

He said the airport has been open for UNMISS planes which may be evacuating people of minority ethnicities in the state who wish to leave. He also acknowledged that trade from Juba has stopped, but said the town’s market was open and people were buying such things as food and clothes.

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