Tiger Faction New Forces

Last updated

Tiger Faction New Forces
LeadersMaj. Gen. Yoanis Okiech  [1] [2]
SpokespersonBrig. Gen. Otowang Achwang [1]
Dates of operation29 October 2015 [3] – January 2017
Split fromFlag of the SPLA (2011 to present).svg Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA)
Allegiance Shilluk Kingdom [4]
HeadquartersHamra, near Kodok in Western Upper Nile [5]
Active regionsNortheastern South Sudan
Ideology Shilluk tribalism [6]
Pro-South Sudanese federalism [6]
Part ofNational Democratic Movement [2] (from 2016)
Allies Flag of South Sudan.svg SPLM/A-IO (until 2016)
Opponents Flag of South Sudan.svg South Sudanese government
Flag of South Sudan.svg SPLM/A-IO (from 2016)

The Tiger Faction New Forces (short: TFNF, also called Tiger Faction or The Tigers) [1] was a Shilluk militia that took part in the South Sudanese Civil War with the aim of reversing the division of South Sudan into 28 (later 32) states in order to restore the territory of the Shilluk Kingdom per its 1956 borders. [1] Led by Yoanis Okiech, the TFNF originally split from the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in late October 2015 and subsequently started an insurgency against the SPLM government. In course of 2016, however, it also came into conflict with SPLM-IO rebels, leading to inter-rebel fighting which resulted in Okiech's death and the group's destruction in January 2017.



Land formally part of the Shilluk Kingdom before the creation of new states in 2015. The TFNF claimed that the lands east of the Nile would be occupied by Dinka as consequence of President Kiir's decree. Shilluk land area in South Sudan.svg
Land formally part of the Shilluk Kingdom before the creation of new states in 2015. The TFNF claimed that the lands east of the Nile would be occupied by Dinka as consequence of President Kiir's decree.

The Shilluk are South Sudan's third-largest ethnic group and mostly live in the country's former Upper Nile state. Centuries ago, the Shilluk formed a sophisticated and powerful kingdom, which has survived to the present day even though it lost its independence during the 19th century. Wary of any outside powers, the Shilluk are much more loyal to each other, their monarchy and their lands than to South Sudan, as the "fertile floodplains of the Nile River, after all, have done more for them than any government ever has". Upon the outbreak of the South Sudanese Civil War, the Shilluk militias mostly sided with the Dinka-dominated government; this changed, however, when President Salva Kiir Mayardit decided to increase the number of South Sudan's states to 28 in mid-2015. This move was widely denounced by Shilluk as attempt to divide their homeland, driving several Shilluk militias into armed rebellion. [7]

Foundation and independent operations

The beginnings of the Tiger Faction New Forces are tied to Yoanis Okiech, one of the leading Shilluk commanders in South Sudan's army, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Okiech initially remained loyal to the government when Shilluk elements in the SPLA, most notably John Uliny's Agwelek forces, rebelled in May 2015. Nevertheless, the government did not trust him and put him under house arrest while his troops remained in Manyo County in northern Upper Nile State, from which they had driven SPLM-IO rebels in early 2015. Okiech consequently expressed sympathy for Uliny's uprising, and when the President finally decreed the creation of new states in October 2015, he and his forces mutinied. [8] At the time, Okiech's superior, Major General Ayok Ogat, had left his soldiers for Juba, an opportunity which Okiech used to launch surprise attacks on SPLA loyalists at Wadakona and Tor Gwang in Manyo County on 29 October 2015. The government claimed that Okiech's followers numbered just 90 men and that their first attacks had failed, [3] whereas the rebels said that their assaults had been a success. [6]

The Tiger Faction New Forces controlled much of northern Western Nile State (pictured) in early 2016 Western Nile in South Sudan 2015.svg
The Tiger Faction New Forces controlled much of northern Western Nile State (pictured) in early 2016

On 30 October, Okiech officially announced the formation of the "Tiger Faction New Forces". The declared intention of the new group was to reverse the division of the Shilluk Kingdom through the creation of new states, which TFNF considered an unconstitutional move by the "corrupt clique in Juba" with the aim of giving Shilluk lands to Dinka. [4] [8] Although there had been reports that the TFNF subsequently joined Uliny's Agwelek forces, [1] the Tigers in fact remained independent, though began to cooperate closely with the Agwelek forces, and, by extension, the SPLM-IO. Attacking loyalist forces at Wadakona, Gabat, Mananmand Ajot, Nyanowar, and Tor Gwang, the TFNF expanded its area of control. Although the Tigers were not powerful enough to capture the strategically significant town of Renk, they controlled much of northern Western Nile State by early 2016, also thanks to widespread support by local Shilluk civilians. [8] In turn, the SPLA launched numerous counter-attacks against the TFNF between October 2015 and February 2016. [8] [9]

Joining the NDM and destruction

The SPLM-IO attempted to convince the TFNF to officially join them in March 2016, but their offer to appoint Okiech as commander of the "Special Brigade One" was rebuffed. The TFNF explained their refusal with the readiness of the SPLM-IO to negotiate a peace agreement with the government. In contrast, the Tigers refused to end their insurgency as long as the Shilluk Kingdom was not restored per its 1956 borders. [1] The TFNF instead joined the National Democratic Movement (NDM), a Shilluk rebel group formed by Lam Akol. As the NDM is a rival to the SPLM-IO, hostilities consequently grew between the Tigers and the SPLM-IO-affiliated Agwelek forces, leading to inter-rebel fighting. [2] [10]

In January 2017, the SPLM-IO forces in Western Upper Nile launched a major campaign against the local NDM affiliates, leading to fierce clashes between the two sides in the area around Hamra, [11] a small village near Kodok. [5] Although a first attack by the SPLM-IO was reportedly repulsed, [11] troops under Uliny's command later overran Okiech's headquarters in the area. In course of the fighting Gen. Gabriel Gatwech Chan (a.k.a. "Tanginye"), a senior NDM commander and personal friend of Okiech, was killed alongside his two sons and at least 20 militants. Okiech was wounded and barely escaped alive, while his remaining forces mostly scattered. [5] [12] [13] John Uliny's men continued to pursue him, and eventually cornered Okiech at Thoroji, in northern Upper Nile near the border to Sudan. There, they killed him and 27 of his bodyguards in a shootout on 7 January 2017. [2] [14] The SPLM-IO went on to claim that with this victory, Okiech's forces were completely destroyed. [15]

Although elements of the NDM remained active in the Upper Nile region, [16] the deaths of Okiech and Gabriel Tang permanently reduced the NDM's ability to expand in the area. Upper Nile thus remained dominated by the SPLM-IO. [10]

Related Research Articles

Shilluk people

The Shilluk are a major Luo Nilotic ethnic group of Southern Sudan, living on both banks of the river Nile, in the vicinity of the city of Malakal. Before the Second Sudanese Civil War the Shilluk also lived in a number of settlements on the northern bank of the Sobat River, close to where the Sobat joins the Nile.

Riek Machar First vice president of the independent Republic of South Sudan

Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon is a South Sudanese politician who serves as the first Vice President of South Sudan.

Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement Political party in South Sudan

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) is a political party in South Sudan. It was initially founded as the political wing of the Sudan People's Liberation Army in 1983. On January 9, 2005 the SPLA, SPLM and Government of Sudan signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, ending the civil war. SPLM then obtained representation in the Government of Sudan, and was the main constituent of the Government of the then semi-autonomous Southern Sudan. When South Sudan became a sovereign state on 9 July 2011, SPLM became the ruling party of the new republic. SPLM branches in Sudan separated themselves from SPLM, forming the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North. Further factionalism appeared as a result of the 2013-2014 South Sudanese Civil War, with President Salva Kiir leading the SPLM-Juba and former Vice President Riek Machar leading the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition.

Malakal City in Upper Nile State, South Sudan

Malakal is a city in South Sudan and the second largest city after the national capital Juba. And it is the capital of Upper Nile State, South Sudan, near the White Nile River. It also serves as the headquarters of makal county.

Lam Akol, or Lam Akol Ajawin, is a South Sudanese politician of Shilluk descent. He is as of 21 June 2020 the current leader of Democratic Change (DC) party, which he founded on 6 June 2009 as "Sudan People's Liberation Movement - Democratic Change". He is a former high-ranking official in the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), and subsequently became the Foreign Minister of Sudan from September 2005 to October 2007, when the Khartoum government offered the SPLA several other key ministries as part of a peace agreement.

South Sudan Peoples Defence Forces

The South Sudan People's Defence Forces (SSPDF), formerly the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), is the army of the Republic of South Sudan. The SPLA was founded as a guerrilla movement against the government of Sudan in 1983 and was a key participant of the Second Sudanese Civil War, led by John Garang. After Garang's death in 2005, Salva Kiir was named the SPLA's new Commander-in-Chief. As of 2010, the SPLA was divided into divisions of 10,000–14,000 soldiers.

Gabriel Tang Southern Sudanese rebel leader

Gabriel Gatwech Chan, more commonly known by the nickname Tang-Ginye or Tanginye meaning "long pipe", was a Nuer and a commander in various primarily Nuer rebel militias in South Sudan. General Tanginye led a southern border militia allied to the Khartoum government during Sudan's civil war. Members of the Sudanese armed forces loyal to Gen Tang in Malakal clashed with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in 2006, killing about 150 people, and in 2009 in breach of the peace deal. In April 2011, clashes between his militia and the SPLA in the state of Jonglei killed at least 57 according to government officials. Shortly thereafter, Tanginye surrendered to SPLA forces and was placed under house arrest in Juba awaiting charges against him. During the South Sudanese Civil War, he allied with the SPLA-IO and later Lam Akol's militia, a Juba linked rebel group called the National Democratic Movement (NDM) and became its chief of staff. In January 2017 he visited a NDM-allied group, the Tiger Faction New Forces, in the Hamra area in the northern Upper Nile. In course of this visit, the Tigers were attacked by SPLM-IO-affiliated fighters belonging to the militia of John Uliny, and Tanginye was killed alongside most of the Tigers.

Peter Gatdet Yak or Peter Gadet was a Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) general who became the leader of the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), a rebel movement in South Sudan.

Sudanese conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile

The Sudanese conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile is an armed conflict in the Sudanese southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile between the Sudanese Army (SAF) and Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a northern affiliate of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in South Sudan. After some years of relative calm following the 2005 agreement which ended the second Sudanese civil war between the Sudanese government and SPLM rebels, fighting broke out again in the lead-up to South Sudan independence on 9 July 2011, starting in South Kordofan on 5 June and spreading to the neighboring Blue Nile state in September. SPLM-N, splitting from newly independent SPLM, took up arms against the inclusion of the two southern states in Sudan with no popular consultation and against the lack of democratic elections. The conflict is intertwined with the War in Darfur, since in November 2011 SPLM-N established a loose alliance with Darfuri rebels, called Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF).

Yohannes Yual Both was a leader of the South Sudan Defense Forces whose mobile forces gave the Sudan People's Liberation Army considerable difficulty during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005).

Ethnic violence in South Sudan has a long history among South Sudan's varied ethnic groups. South Sudan has 64 tribes with the largest being the Dinkas, who constitute about 35% of the population and predominate in government. The second largest are the Nuers. Conflict is often aggravated among nomadic groups over the issue of cattle and grazing land and is part of the wider Sudanese nomadic conflicts.

The South Sudan Democratic Movement (SSDM), sometimes called the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army (SSDM/A), was a South Sudanese militant group. Along with its armed wing, the South Sudan Defence Army (SSDA), rebelled against the government of South Sudan led by President Salva Kiir Mayardit and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

David Yau Yau

David Yau Yau was the Chief Administrator of the Greater Pibor Administrative Area of South Sudan. He was previously the leader of a Murle insurrection against the South Sudanese government.

South Sudanese Civil War Conflict in South Sudan from 2013 to 2020

The South Sudanese Civil War was a multi-sided civil war in South Sudan between forces of the government and opposition forces. In December 2013, President Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar and ten others of attempting a coup d'état. Machar denied trying to start a coup and fled to lead the SPLM – in opposition (SPLM-IO). Fighting broke out between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and SPLM-IO, igniting the civil war. Ugandan troops were deployed to fight alongside the South Sudanese government. The United Nations has peacekeepers in the country as part of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

John Uliny, also known as Johnson Olony, Johnson Olonyi, and John Olony, is a South Sudanese militia leader. He is a member of the Shilluk ethnic group.

2016–2019 Wau clashes

Armed clashes took in Wau State from late June 2016 to January 2019, between the Dinka-dominated Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and local opposition forces, consisting of tribal Fertit militias as well as fighters claiming allegiance to Riek Machar. It is unclear to what extent these rebels are actually part of the SPLM-IO or acting independently while using the SPLM-IO's name. The clashes resulted in the arrest of the state's governor, Elias Waya Nyipuoc, widespread death and destruction in the state capital, Wau town, and the displacement of up to 150,000 people.

Yuai Town in Bieh State, South Sudan

Yuai is the capital of Uror County, Bieh State in the Greater Upper Nile region of South Sudan. It is the most populous place in Uror County. It has historically been associated with the Nuer White Army.

Pagak offensive

The Pagak offensive was a major military operation by the South Sudanese government during the South Sudanese Civil War with the aim of capturing the strategic town of Pagak and the wider Maiwut County from Riek Machar's SPLM-IO rebels. Since the civil war's beginning, Pagak had served as headquarters and stronghold for the rebels, and its loss was believed to possibly greatly weaken the insurgency. A large part of the government forces that took part in the offensive are members of the SPLM-IO, a break-away group from Machar's movement that is loyal to First Vice President Taban Deng Gai. Though pro-government forces managed to capture Pagak on 6 August, their attempts to secure the surrounding areas proved unsuccessful. As result, the SPLA-held corridor between Mathiang and Pagak remained unsafe.

The 2014 retreat from Western Bahr el Ghazal, also called the long march north, was an unorganized withdrawal by hundreds of Nuer Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) deserters who sought to flee from Bahr el Ghazal to Sudan during the South Sudanese Civil War. After longstanding tensions between SPLA soldiers belonging to the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups escalated on 25 April 2014, leading to a massacre of Nuer soldiers at Mapel in Western Bahr el Ghazal, a large number of Nuer SPLA soldiers deserted to escape ethnic prosecution and loyalist SPLA forces. Though some deserters joined SPLM-IO rebels or surrendered to the government, a large number of them marched northward, joined by other SPLA defectors from Northern Bahr el Ghazal. After covering over 400 kilometres (250 mi), this trek eventually arrived in Sudan on 4 August 2014, where they were disarmed.

This article lists events from the year 2019 in South Sudan


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Tiger faction of ethnic Shilluk kingdom dismisses integration into SPLM-IO". Sudan Tribune. 11 March 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Another S Sudanese rebel commander killed near Sudan border". Radio Tamazuj. 7 January 2017. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  3. 1 2 "Fighting among SPLA forces at Wadakona in Upper Nile Thursday". Radio Tamazuj. 30 October 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  4. 1 2 "New rebel group formed in South Sudan against the creation of 28 states". Sudan Tribune. 31 October 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  5. 1 2 3 "Gen Tany Ginye killed along with his 2 sons. Gen Okiech wounded and narrowly escaped". Upper Nile Times. 4 January 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  6. 1 2 3 "Tiger Faction New Forces to fight Pres. Kiir's 28 States Decree". SouthSudanNation. 31 October 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  7. Amanda Sperber (22 January 2016). "South Sudan's Next Civil War Is Starting". Foreign Policy . Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "The Conflict in Upper Nile State". Small Arms Survey . 8 March 2016. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  9. "Upper Nile rebel faction accuses gov't of provocative attacks". Sudan Tribune. 29 November 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  10. 1 2 Young (2017), p. 42.
  11. 1 2 "Lam Akol's forces say under attack in Upper Nile". Radio Tamazuj. 4 January 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  12. "South Sudanese rebel commander killed after squabbles with other faction". Sudan Tribune. 6 January 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  13. "Top rebel commander killed in clashes in Upper Nile". Radio Tamazuj. 4 January 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  14. "Another rebel commander shot dead in war-torn South Sudan". Sudan Tribune. 7 January 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  15. Masura (7 January 2017). "Another Rebel General killed in Northern Upper Nile". Hot in Juba. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  16. Emmanuel Aban For (22 April 2017). "The National Democratic Movement (NDM) 22nd April, 2017 Press Release". The Malakal Post. Retrieved 8 December 2017.

Works cited