Oct. 10, 2016, The armed group known as ‘Mathiang Anyoor’ has fought alongside government forces since the start of South Sudan’s current civil war, but the group originated outside of the army’s command.
In an investigative report published today, Radio Tamazuj reports on the network of relationships between the militia, the army and top politicians. The below timeline is published in conjunction with that report:
April 2012: Fighting between Sudan and South Sudan begins in the oil-rich border area, Heglig. President Salva Kiir and his supporters in the Bahr al Ghazal states use the fighting as a reason to recruit a new militia, the ‘Mathiang Anyoor.’
Minister of Internal Affairs Aleu Ayieny: “They were recruited in 2012 when we fought the north. Many volunteered, especially in Bahr al Ghazal. The present chief of staff [Paul Malong Awan], then governor of [Northern] Bahr al Ghazal, retained them, though there was no budget for it. This was never a government program, but a local initiative. They were brought here to help fight.”
Former Northern Bahr al Ghazal Governor Paul Malong: “It is a new story to me that I made a recruitment, as a general. No one can recruit an army apart from the national army. There will be no budget and no trainers if they are not in the army. I did not recruit them, this is not my job.”
6 March 2013: The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Political Bureau convention begins. The plan is to discuss the party’s basic documents. During the course of the meetings, Machar reportedly announces his plans to challenge for the head of the party at the upcoming national convention.
15 April 2013: Kiir strips Machar of ‘all duly delegated powers.’
23 July 2013: Amid growing tensions in Juba, Kiir fires his entire cabinet, including Machar, in a series of televised announcements. In the following weeks, he moves to restructure the government and appoint new ministers. James Wani Igga is eventually named to replace Machar as vice president.
Former Chief of Military Intelligence Mac Paul: “I advised Salva in June that better to manage Riek than to remove him. He said, I cannot take him anymore. This one is going to be like 1991. If Riek does anything, he is going to face it. I told him, then the people will also suffer. What will be the end game?”
25 July 2013: At a press conference Machar agrees that Kiir has the right to remove him from office and calls for peace.
November 2013: Preparation and mobilization of Mathiang Anyoor forces accelerates.
Mac Paul: “Secret mobilization had happened before this that we were not aware of. It started earlier in November. Elders met and chose mobilizers at this meeting, to protect the president. The meeting was chaired by former Chief Justice Ambrose Riing Thiik. This force was called ‘Rescue the President’ [Dot ke beny]. Almost 70 percent of anyone from Bahr al Ghazal was mobilized in this, in their thousands. Those who remained in Juba were mainly from Bahr al Ghazal. The elders coordinated with the president. The financing came from his office.”
6 December 2013: Machar, along with other major political figures, including Rebecca Nyandeng, the widow of John Garang, former SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum and Deng Alor, the former minister of cabinet affairs, hold a press conference in Juba while Kiir is out of the country. In his speech, Machar lambastes Kiir and says, “The SPLM chairman has completely immobilized the party, abandoned collective leadership and jettisoned all democratic pretensions to decision making.”
Mac Paul: “On December 5, this issue came up that the G13 wanted to organize a press conference in Juba at the mausoleum of Garang. The president called us together and asked our opinion, said he was going to give orders for their arrest. We dissuaded him, saying we will all be refugees then.”
9 December 2013: Members of Mathiang Anyoor and the presidential guard participate in a “cleaning exercise” in Juba, which was allegedly really a reconnaissance mission to establish where Nuers lived in the capital, according to sources cited in a draft African Union Commission of Inquiry report.
11 December 2013: Tensions in Juba increase on the back of increasing rumors within the military.
Mac Paul: “On the 11th, a lot of rumors were going around – that Salva has ordered the disarmament of Nuer in the presidential guard. From the 10th to the 11th – Taban called me to say we have there is impending disarmament of the Nuer. I called Major General Marial, commander of the presidential guard. He denied the rumor. We had the old regulation that all guns have to be in the armory. This rumor spread within certain sectors, but there was no public disclaimer.”
14 December 2013: The National Liberation Council meeting opens, despite calls for its delay until conflicts within the leadership are sorted out. During the opening, Kiir gives a fiery speech referencing Machar’s defection from the SPLA during the southern war for independence from Khartoum. Machar and other key political leaders who participated in the earlier press conference boycott the second day of meetings.
Former Minister of Higher Education Peter Adwok: “When Salva got up to talk, he was on a war path, attacking those who wanted to take power.”
Former Deputy Defense Minister Majok D’Agoot: “We did not expect the situation to degenerate to this point. None of the things about which they were differing were cause enough for civil war. The resort to arms took us by surprise.”
Evening of 15 December 2013: The fighting in Juba begins in a military barracks.
16 December 2013: Kiir appears on state television, dressed in full military uniform, and accuses Machar of having attempted a coup.
Eyewitness at SPLA Bilpham Headquarters: “The president’s address retriggered the shooting in the barracks.”
16 – 18 December: Fighting and mass atrocities continue across Juba.
One of the survivors told the AU: “On 16 December, after the fighting in the army stopped, they came house to house to collect and kill. I and three brothers were pulled out of the house and taken to the barracks. They put us in a container. Eleven died of suffocation in the container. There were three windows, tiny, but no wind. We were so many we could not sit; we had to stand the whole day until the night. We heard gunshots all day. They would push people into the container the whole day. Ten at night, they started shooting. It was continuous shooting until all fall down. They opened the door, lit a torch. If they saw you breathing, they would shoot. If someone starts crying, they would come back and shoot. This happened four times.”
James Hoth Mai: “We were only left with the Dinka. There was no way of stopping an organized killing of Nuer. Even many Dinka and Equatorians were killed.”
17 December: Mobilization for revenge killings begins among the Nuer communities across South Sudan.
Quotations printed here are excerpted from a draft document leaked from the African Union Commission of Inquiry, which interviewed the quoted officials.