South Sudan still suffers pockets of insecurity posed by armed groups on the periphery fueled by being left out on the peace deal signed last August between former warring factions, experts have said.
Despite President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader and now First Vice President Riek Machar having ended hostilities by forming a transitional government of national unity in April, militia groups that neither honor peace agreements nor directives from the two leaders still pose a major security threat.
These militia groups are in existence despite the government and the former rebel force, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in opposition (SPLM-IO) forces having reached settlement on the hitherto disputed cantonment areas of greater Bhar El Ghazal and Equatoria regions.
The unity government is facing a difficulty dealing with attacks on government installations by these militia groups operating in Western Bhar El Ghazal and other areas like Equatoria region’s Kajo Keji area where violent clashes erupted in June between SPLA-IO forces and the South Sudan army (SPLA).
Attacks by an unknown militia group on military installations on Wednesday in Raja town in newly created Lol State forced the governor and hundreds of people to flee for safety.
The attacks targeted the local military installations, national security services and Governor Zachariah Rizik’s offices, prompting the government troops to engage the attackers, who allegedly also looted Raja town.
Analysts say such violence by nascent armed groups operating on the periphery could unravel the nascent security gains and worsen the already fragile economy especially if oil-producing regions are targeted like in the past.
Army spokesman Brigadier Lul Ruai Koang told Xinhua on Monday that the security situation in Raja was back to normal following the attacks by what he described as criminals.
“There is nothing new our security situation has regained normalcy and our intelligence reports have established that criminal groups with different intentions of spoiling the peace agreement were behind the attacks,” he said.
He added that the army had learnt lessons and beefed up its security operations in the area.
Meanwhile, SPLM-IO spokesman in the capital Juba, William Ezekiel, denied any involvement of their group in the devastating Raja attacks although he alluded to the presence of their troops outside Raja town.
“We are not part and parcel of what happened in Raja. Our forces remain in their cantonment areas and we are not controlling Raja where the attacks took place,” Ezekiel told Xinhua.
He added the SPLM-IO also has presence in Kajo Keji town near the Ugandan border of Moyo town where sporadic clashes occurred this month between their troops and SPLA.
Abraham Awolich, a security and political analyst at the Juba-based Sudd Institute, said such attacks posed a threat to the nascent peace agreement and could cause a security breakdown leading to a return to conflict.
“We know that there were people who took advantage of the security relapse due to the civil conflict knowing they were not part and parcel of the signed peace agreement. These groups are possibly involved in local fights among communities,” Awolich said.
He revealed that some militia groups fighting in oil-rich Upper Nile and Unity state broke away from the SPLM-IO.
“They know that if they intensify attacks against the government they may be considered through negotiations after they have been identified. But if their attacks and grievances persist it could unravel the signed peace deal dragging the country back to war,” he said.
In addition, the government is facing an economic crunch amid industrial action from a majority of civil servants following strikes by medical workers, university lecturers and teachers over delayed salaries and allowances.
And currently, judicial staff including judges are on strike.
Alic Garang, an analyst with South Sudan’s think tank Ebony Center for Strategic Studies, said crime rate in the country was on the rise due to high living costs caused by more than two years of civil conflict and global drop in the price of oil exports, which is the country’s almost only source of revenue.
“Some of these petty crimes include phone theft, burglary, and stealing anything. Authorities in the Ministry of Interior and elsewhere have already confirmed that crime rates are on the rise,” he said.
He added the industrial action by civil servants will disrupt the unity government.
“If teachers refuse to teach, judges refuse to go to courtrooms and civil servants choose to stay at home, then this development creates a situation of anarchy and criminals may exploit the situation for selfish ends,” he said. Enditem
Source: Denis Elamu, Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh