The SPLA ADefectors@: the Trojan Horse Plan
In December 1997 and January 1998, a dramatic new element was added to the armed presence in Wau. Hundreds of mostly Dinka SPLA soldiers began Adefecting@ to the government side, bringing with them their wives and children from the rural areas controlled by the SPLA around Wau. They surrendered to Kerubino, and took up residence near his headquarters in Marial Bai.164 The influx of SPLA soldiers to Kerubino=s forces started shortly after December 25, 1997, according to press accounts.165 One SPLA source said that two SPLA brigades (each of 600 men) "surrendered" to join the Kerubino forces.166
Somewhat alarmed by the unannounced appearance of Asurrendering@ rebels, First Vice President Al Zubeir Mohamed Salih soon visited them. He announced they would be absorbed into the government=s armed forces.167 Whether former rebels would be permitted their own military organization or would be absorbed into the government army has always been a difficult issue: in settlement of the first civil war, units of Anyanya fighters were absorbed, under command of Anyanya officers, into the Sudan army.
The defections from the SPLA to Kerubino=s pro-government forces were announced with great fanfare by the government on national television, with celebrations of the SPLA surrendering in Marial Bai videotaped and broadcast.168 It seemed as if, little by little, the efforts to attract other defectors from the SPLA to the APeace from Within@ program were bearing fruit, and the SPLA would be reduced to a shadow of itself. Efforts were announced to assist the needy returnees. By mid-January they included an estimated 2,500 SPLA fighters and 6,000 family members, called Areturnees.@169
It became easy to come and go from Wau, a change from the tight restrictions on movement put in place in May 1997 after Tonj fell to the SPLA. The defectors, who had surrendered but had not given up their guns, moved freely in and out of Wau with their arms. This frightened many northerners in Wau. The government authorities were suspicious, particularly when Kerubino provided government weapons to the defectors.170
As it turned out, these Adefectors@ were part of a Trojan Horse plan by Kerubino and the SPLA, whereby they would infiltrate SPLA forces into Wau and then capture the town with a surprise attack from within. According to SPLA Alternate Commander Marial Camuong Yol, who participated in the affair, Kerubino contacted the SPLA by radio in August 1997, but the SPLA was wary because his forces were still fighting against the SPLA. In November 1998 a secret meeting between officers of both sides took place and a second meeting was held one month later, which this witness attended. Since the presence of SPLA troops near Kerubino=s base at Marial Bai could not be kept secret, this commander and his men posed as defectors from the SPLA. There Kerubino told them he had three enemies: the NIF, Riek Machar, and the SPLA. He could no longer work with the others but felt he could work with the SPLA.171
Kerubino also was garnering other forces in the Wau area. In late 1997 or early 1998 Kerubino is reported to have supplied weapons to the Belanda in the Fertit militia, and they reportedly joined the Kerubino forces.172
164 Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, May 1, 1998.
165 Alfred Taban, ASudan Rebels and Tribes Flee Famine, Fighting,@ Reuters, Maryal Bai, Sudan, January 29, 1998.
166 Human Rights Watch interview, Sudan, May 17, 1998.
167 "Sudan to Bring Defecting Rebels into Armed Forces,@ Reuters, Khartoum, January 12, 1998.
168 Human Rights Watch interview, May 8, 1998.
169 "Government Begins Airlifts to Help >Returnees= in South,@ Republic of Sudan Radio, Omdurman, in Arabic, January 9, 1998, BBC Monitoring Service: Middle East, January 12, 1998.
170 Human Rights Watch interview, Lokichokkio, May 11, 1998.
171 Alternate Commander Marial Camuong Yol was interviewed by Christian Solidarity International. CSI, ACSI Visit to Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Sudan (focusing on Slavery, Arab-Dinka Relations, Kerubino & the SPLA, Humanitarian Aid & Religious Persecution),@ Binz, Switzerland, September 5-10, 1998.
172 Human Rights Watch interview, Lokichokkio, May 11, 1998. The Belanda live south of Wau. They are an agricultural Luo people related to the Jur. Santandrea, Ethno-geography of Bahr El Ghazal, pp. 136-37.