Kerubino=s Government-armed Militia
Also present in Wau were the pro-government forces of Kerubino, headquartered in Marial Bai in an old dairy farm some eighteen miles from Wau.158 He kept them separate from the government=s regular forces at its main base at Girinti. One former Wau resident remembered that after Kerubino signed the agreement with the government, his forces began coming daily to Wau. Kerubino=s base at Wunrok was captured by the SPLA in mid-1997.159
Kerubino reportedly had taken some 2,000 troops to defend the government against attacks on the eastern front near Damazien in early 1997 but later that year withdrew his forces back to Bahr El Ghazal, supposedly after an altercation with Vice President Zubeir at the front.
Some in the government doubted Kerubino's loyalty. Behind his back, they dubbed him the "criminal general" (liwa mujiriim). He was considered unpredictable,160 as the Khartoum government discovered numerous times when trying to persuade Kerubino to release the ICRC plane and crew he took hostage in Wunrok in late 1996 (thirteen months before his defection and the fighting in Wau).161
According to another source, Kerubino, having failed to win the position of deputy chairperson of the South Sudan Coordinating Council (SSCC), the interim body organized for governing the south prior to self-determination elections pursuant to the Peace Agreement (see below), left Khartoum for Bahr El Ghazal. He settled at Marial Bai rather than his previous base at Gogrial, sixty-three miles distant from Wau. AFrom there he issued threats to the regime and began to court the SPLA.@162 There were an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 Kerubino forces in Marial Bai.163 As usual, exact counts are elusive.
158 Marial Bai, Wau County, is not to be confused with the larger Marial Bai located to the northwest in Aweil County of Northern Bahr El Ghazal state.
159 Human Rights Watch interview, Wunrok, Bahr El Ghazal, May 8, 1998.
161 Apparently the government sent two high-ranking emissaries from the ministry of defense to Wunrok to plead with Kerubino to end the stand-off. Kerubino was finally convinced by U.S. emissary Bill Richardson (prior to Richardson=s appointment as U.S. ambassador to the U.N.), amid front-page bargaining, to settle for substantially less than the $10 million sought. Elif Kaban, ARice and Radios Help Sudan Hostage Negotiators,@ Reuter, Geneva, December 10, 1996; Human Rights Watch confidential interview, New York, November 1996.
162 "War and Politics: Kerubino Gives NIF A Run For Their Money While SPLA Watches,@ Sudan Democratic Gazette (London), Year IX, No. 93, February 1998. This monthly is written and published by exiled opposition leader Bona Malwal, also a Bahr El Ghazal Dinka.
163 Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, May 2, 1998; Human Rights Watch interview, Sudan, May 17, 1998.