The opposition vanishes

Unity state’s deputy governor, Tor Tungwar, is in trouble. His nominee for commissioner, Dhoal Koryom Lingling, is unpopular with the SPLA-IO military command. The SPLA-IO Division 4 commander, Turuk Khor, the deputy sector one commander, Gatthuoy Thaak, and the head of military intelligence, Kuer Puot, all oppose Tor, and accuse him of diverting SPLM/A-IO funds into his own pockets. On 2 June 2023, they wrote a letter to Riek Machar under the auspices of the Leek Council of Elders demanding Tor’s resignation. However, Tor is closely linked to Angelina Teny, the former South Sudanese minister of defence, and his removal will be resisted.

The SPLA-IO military leadership is also not in a strong position. Having been routed from the Mirmir cantonment site in 2022, the opposition waits futilely for the formation of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF) called for by the R-ARCSS. While 2,838 members of the NUF were graduated in Bentiu in January 2023 (R-JMEC, 2023), they have not been deployed, and remain in their cantonment sites, where they have no food or medical supplies and receive no wages. The opposition forces feel abandoned by both Kiir and Machar. They are also increasingly fractious, with violent clashes between SPLA-IO forces in February 2023 over tax collection at Adok port (one of the few sources of income for the opposition in Unity, along with taxing fishermen at Barjuoth in Guit county).[6]

With government appointees or commissioners loyal to the government in control in Koch, Leer, and Mayendit counties, only Panyijar remains an SPLM-IO political stronghold. Even there the SPLM is attempting to establish a foothold, inadvertently aided by the SPLM-IO, which has chosen a series of unpopular Machar loyalists as commissioners. In June 2023 clashes broke out between Gabriel Majok Bol, the current commissioner, and the popular politician Michael Lot Gatluak, who had previously been proposed as commissioner by the customary authorities in the county, but was rejected by Machar, who considered him a threat. In June 2023 the deputy speaker of the state, John Gatluak Doar, a Nyong Nuer from Panyijar, who is an ally of Nguen, was also warned not to come to Panyijar: the opposition fear that he would mobilize support for the SPLM if he were to do so.

[6] Author telephone interviews with informants, Unity state, January–June 2023.