A top South Sudanese rebel commander has been killed after squabbles erupted over the allegiance and the objective of the armed struggle.
Gabriel Tanginye was killed during a clash in which more than 20 others lost lives. The exact circumstances under which the attack took place remain unclear, with military sources and relatives providing conflicting accounts surrounding the incident.
Military spokespersons representing two rebel leaders, Lam Akol and Riek Machar, confirmed his death in separate statements without elaborating the circumstances under the attack was carried out and which sides initiated it.
Tanginye was one of the senior rebel commanders who switched side from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition under the overall command and leadership of the former vice president, Riek Machar before the signing of the 2015 peace agreement.
He remained one of the holdout rebel commanders and did not join Machar when the new conflict resumed.
He opted to remain at South Sudan-Sudanese border as independent commander until Lam Akol resigned from the unity government in which he served as the minister of agriculture and formed his own rebel movement.
Sources say Akol later recruited Tanginye as one of his commanders. Others refute the reports of having joined Akol, saying Tanginye was only in the area under the control of Akol’s commander Yohanis Okech, whose headquarters came under attack on Wednesday by a group allied to Machar, resulting in the clash in which several lives, including Tanginye and his son were lost.
“As far I know, I don’t think Tanginye was one of the commanders under Lam Akol. He was only in the area preparing to go to Fangak area, where he wanted to carry out his own recruitment.
His mission to the area took sometimes due to logistics and so he decided to stay with Yohanis Okech, who is the commander of the forces under Lam Akol. He was there because of personal relations between the two men. They are friends”, a source with the direct knowledge of the situation said.
The source explained Tanginye became the victim of an internal conflict between Okech and Johnson Olony, who is the commander, allied to Riek Machar forces in the area.