Mayom: ‘Ghost town, burnt down, many bodies’
Fighting in Unity State in the north of South Sudan has destroyed the town of Mayom, displaced most of the civilian population from the area and also destabilized the rural economy.
The county has been fiercely contested since the outbreak of fighting in late December between SPLA and SPLA defectors, as well as SSLA troops loyal to the government.
On Monday and Tuesday fighting continued in the county in spite of the start of negotiations in Addis Ababa between representatives of President Salva Kiir and his rival, ousted vice president Riek Machar.
Three tanks belonging to the government force were captured during an attack on the defectors’ position in Tumur area east of Mayom on Monday. Kiir’s forces attacked again on Tuesday, but were again repulsed, according to the Mayom county commissioner.
Peter Dak, the highest civil official in Mayom, told Radio Tamazuj on Tuesday evening that he fled from the town to the east after it was attacked by Kiir’s troops coming from Warrap State.
Dak was appointed as commissioner about three months ago by the caretaker governor of the state appointed by Salva Kiir. He says that he “tried to prevent the war from escalating, but in vain.”
“People scattered and many people were displaced. Half the population went to the eastern side of the state,” said Dak.
Mayom town itself suffered extensive damage: “It’s a ghost town, it’s burned down, there are many dead bodies.”
He could not say how many soldiers were killed in the recent fighting, saying he did not know, but he estimated that as many as 200 civilians had died in Mayom itself, many in a fire that swept the town.
Economic and humanitarian consequences of the fighting will clearly be enormous. Cattle raids from Warrap State threaten the main livelihood in the state, with an unverified number – 10,000, according to the commissioner – taken in one recent raid.
Likewise, trade and commerce have been shut down entirely. “There are no civilian vehicles any more, they were all taken by the army,” said Dak.
At least 165 north Sudanese traders left Mayom more than a week ago with huge losses owing to looting and burning. They fled north to the government-held county in Abiemnhom.
Apparently no food, medicines or other commodities are being brought in either from the government-held side toward Warrap or from the defectors’ stronghold to the east. “The road leading to Bentiu is not safe for civilians,” said Dak.