Fighting between SSPDF disarmament force and armed civilians kills 80 in Tonj

South Sudan’s map featuring defunct Warrap state (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

August 11, 2020 (Nyamilepedia) – Fierce fighting has broken out between a disarmament force of the South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF) and armed civilians in the country’s Tonj East County killing over 80 people, according to local officials.

A local official identified as Makuei Mabior told the VOA’s South Sudan in Focus that the fighting began after an SSPDF soldier ordered a young man to remove a piece of red close from his head.

“A small fight started. Bystanders rushed in and convinced them to stop and take the youth to the police but soon after that the soldiers cocked their guns and started shooting, killing the youth and other civilians in the market,” Mabior said.

Army spokesman Major General Lul Ruai Koang confirmed that the fighting took place, but disputed the circumstances which led to the fighting.

“On the night of August 8th, these armed civilians commonly known as Gelweng mobilized themselves in large numbers and in the morning attacked our defensive position at Romic, so that was the start of the fighting,” General Lul said.

“To minimize further escalation, our forces had to disengage and they have pulled back to a place called Ngab-Agok,” he added.

Mabior, the local official, said over 40 civilians were killed and 93 others were wounded. He said around 34 members of the army were killed adding that some local leaders were urging President Salva Kiir to punish the commanders of the disarmament campaign.