As South Sudan’s opposition leader, Dr Riek Machar, flies to Johannesburg on Wednesday for medical treatment, his armed followers stand accused of carrying out an attack on three civilian buses travelling from South Sudan’s capital Juba to Kampala in Uganda.
On Monday, armed gunmen, swearing to overthrow South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s government, ambushed three buses using rocket-propelled grenades and other heavy weaponry as the buses approached Uganda’s border with South Sudan.
Brigadier Lul Ruai Koang, the spokesperson of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in government, said rebels loyal to Machar, the former first vice president, were behind the attacks, Uganda’s Observer newspaper reported on Wednesday.
“The political and military leadership of Machar’s SPLA-IO has always come out to say that such attacks were carried out by their forces. But what is bothering our minds is why they are targeting civilians?” asked Koang.
The spokesman added that Machar’s forces were bent on making South Sudan ungovernable by staging ambushes on major roads that lead to the capital, hence cutting it off from its main supply routes, reported the Observer.
“From the way they have been carrying out their ambushes, it is an indication that they are against peace in the country. They are also motivated by greed because in every ambush, they loot people of all their valuables, including phones and money,” Koang added
During Monday’s attacks, one of the bus drivers was shot in the leg as he tried to escape and one of the buses was torched after the terrified passengers, mostly Ugandans, had been robbed at gunpoint of personal belongings and had their passports confiscated.
The passengers were eventually released after being forced to march several kilometres in the bush but not before being subjected to a verbal tirade against Dinkas who are from the same tribe as Kiir.
The gunmen also threatened to wipe out Ugandans if they continued to side with the Dinkas and Kiir’s government.
Koang used to be the spokesperson of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in opposition (SPLM-IO) before he fell out with Machar in 2015.
The majority of South Sudan’s imports enter the country through the Nimule border point with Uganda.