Juba — South Sudan's army (SPLA) spokesperson, Philip Aguer, said on Saturday that rebel forces loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar are planning an attack on Jonglei state capital Bor.
Mutineers from the army took control of Bor a few days after conflict broke out between members of the presidential guard on 15 December in the capital, Juba, with the army later retaking control of Bor on 24 December.
The United Nations says that 120,000 people have been displaced and over 1,000 people killed since the fighting spread from Juba to Jonglei, as well as the oil-producing states of Unity and Upper Nile.
"We have information that forces loyal to Riek Machar are believed to be preparing a fresh offensive on Bor. We don't know the number, but it is estimated 25,000 youths from the Lou Nuer [tribe] have been mobilised to participate in the attack", Aguer told reporters.
South Sudan's information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, accused Machar of mobilising young men from his Nuer tribe to rise up against the government.
"Riek Machar has decided to mobilise the youth in the name of his tribe. This is unacceptable. He is putting in danger the lives of these innocent youth", Lueth said in an interview on government-owned broadcasters on Saturday.
FIGHTING IN UNITY STATE
Aguer said government troops had clashed and repelled attacks by forces loyal to Machar in Unity state, where the SPLA's state division commander defected a week ago.
The "SPLA is fighting back", Aguer said, adding "it is the other side that is attacking us".
East African body, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has said that negotiations will begin before the end of the year, but there were no signs that a ceasefire agreement was being observed on Saturday.
It is feared that the situation is likely to continue unabated unless regional leaders expedite the process of negotiations.
Earlier, South Sudanese vice-president James Wani said his government was ready to begin negotiations earlier than the initial period put forward by regional leaders in a bid to end the violence.
"We are ready to meet even before that. It is now up to Machar to accept the ceasefire", said Igga.