South Sudan: New rebel group challenges president as conflict intensifies

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A new rebel group in South Sudan, claiming to consist of more than 30,000 fighters, is threatening to overthrow President Salva Kiir.

Former army general, Thomas Cirillo, who resigned as deputy chief of logistics for the South Sudanese military in February, claims his rebel group has the resources to defeat his former allies, prompting fears the country’s conflict could soon worsen.

 

South Sudan’s new rebel group

Thomas Cirillo formed the National Salvation Front after resigning from his military position in February. At the time he accused President Salva Kiir of waging a “tribally engineered war” and turning the country’s army into a force dominated by the Dinka ethnic group, which president belongs to.

Cirillo is from the Equatorian ethnic group – and the highest ranking member of his community in the army – however, he insists his rebel movement has nothing to do with ethnicity. The National Salvation Front is a coalition of four different rebel groups, which he describes as “not a tribal movement but a national movement”.

“We’re not appealing to Equatorians and Nuer as such, but we’re appealing to the whole nation to join us,” he says.

 

Conflict rages on

Despite Cirillo’s ambitions for a united front against Salva Kiir and his government, doubts have been cast over his group’s ability to make an impact. South Sudan’s presidential spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, has simply dismissed them as a threat. While Douglas Johnson, an independent researcher and the author of The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars believes they will struggle to challenge Kiir.

“Unless they have the finances and equipment to back this up it will be very difficult to keep a united armed opposition group together and growing,” he told Bloomberg.

Fighting in South Sudan’s three-year civil war has already killed tens of thousands, prompting fears that a new rebel movement will only contribute to the bloodshed.

 

Featured image: By Al Jazeera English – Kiir awaits, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17499385

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.