Juba , South Sudan — A string of deadly road attacks in South Sudan, including one on a governor’s convoy returning from the scene of an earlier attack, have left nearly 30 people dead.
Officials in Eastern Equatoria state say gunmen killed a bodyguard of Governor Louis Lobong Lojore and a woman on Monday, a day after armed youths allegedly from the town of Kapoeta attacked an area called “Camp 15” where members of the ethnic Buya community reside.
Governor Lojore said the motive behind Sunday’s incident was believed to be retaliation for an attack in 2020 on the SPLM-In Opposition cantonment site in the town of Lowuareng.
“There was an incident in Lowuareng where a small cantonment site which was there was turned into a small market and it was attacked by people suspected to be youth from Buya community killing five people, so it was based on that,” Lojore told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.
Lojore traveled to Camp 15 on Monday to calm tensions following Sunday’s attack on the trading center. A short time after the governor’s convoy left the camp to return to the state capital Torit Monday evening, gunmen attacked the convoy, killing two people and injuring three others, said state information minister Patrick Oting.
“They fell in an ambush and were attacked by the same Buya youths in Camp 15,” Oting told South Sudan in Focus. The governor was uninjured.
Oting said Lojore’s convoy returned to Camp 15 after the attack.
“They withdrew from that place, the governor and all the dignitaries that were with him on the convoy including the commander of army in Torit, General Robert Okimo, back to the barracks in Camp 15 after the ambush,” said Oting.
With the presence of soldiers on the ground, Othing said the governor and his peace delegates hoped to continue their peace mission to the three communities of Buya, Didinga and Toposa in Eastern Equatoria.
In Central Equatoria state, gunmen killed another 10 people in two separate incidents on the same road. Four commuters including three drivers were killed Sunday while traveling on the Juba-Yei Road and six more travelers were killed by unknown gunmen on Monday.
At a Juba news conference Monday, Central Equatoria state officials accused National Salvation Front (NAS) rebels led by Thomas Cirillo of carrying out the attacks.
State information minister Paulino Lukudu said NAS forces also launched attacks in Lasu and Lata of Yei River County last week.
On Tuesday, NAS spokesperson Suba Samuel denied his group is responsible for the recent deadly attacks.
“We are not aware of these road attacks or road ambushes whatsoever. What we know is our forces are engaging [South Sudan army forces] south of Juba, in Otogo, in Mugo and yesterday it was in Mukaya,” Samuel told South Sudan in Focus.
Lukudu said he hopes Cirilo will actively engage in peace talks between the government and holdout groups under a coalition called the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance in Naivasha, Kenya.