11 July 2014

South Sudan: Rebels Accused of Attacking SPLA Positions in Unity, Upper Nile States

Photo: USAID
Salva Kiir Mayardit, president of the Republic of South Sudan.

Juba — The South Sudanese army (SPLA) said on Friday that opposition troops had launched attacks on Wangkei and Guit in Unity state, with a separate "shelling" targeting Upper Nile state's Nassir, officials said.

South Sudanese rebel troops loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar stand on guard in Unity state capital Bentiu on 12 January 2014 after recapturing the strategic town from government troops (Photo: Reuters)

In a phone interview with Sudan Tribune on Friday, SPLA spokesperson Col. Philip Aguer claimed the raids had been carried out by rebel forces that had crossed from Sudan.

He said government troops had repulsed the attacks, adding he had no information on the number of casualties from both sides.

"The SPLA is committed to the [January] ceasefire. We will never move out of our bases but we will fight in self defence," said Aguer.

"The SPLA will continue to monitor them and we will teach them lessons [if] they (rebel forces) continue to attack us," he added.

However, rebels have countered with their own allegations, claiming government troops launched attacks their positions.

Both sides have continued to accuse each other of violating the terms of a ceasefire agreement signed in January, which president Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar recommitted to in May.

Government troops and pro-Machar rebels have been engaged in an armed struggle since mid-December last year after a political split in the ruling SPLM turned violent.

Peace talks being mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) were adjourned indefinitely last month amid disagreement over the selection process for other stakeholders wishing to participate.

Rebels delegates subsequently refused to take part in talks, citing the lack of inclusiveness.

SPLA ACCUSED

In an interview by satellite phone from Kampala, rebel spokesman Peter Riak Gew told Sudan Tribune that government troops launched coordinated attacks on rebel positions in Wangkei and Kabelek payams (districts) of Guit county before being driven back to Unity state capital Bentiu.

He claimed rebels killed 30 government soldiers, with five rebel fighters also killed.

A number of AK-47 machine guns and other ammunitions were also seized from government troops, said Gew.

He maintained the rebel faction was observing the peace process, accusing the

government of committing serious violations.

"Our forces were responding in self-defence from government troops who

were aggressively [attacking] our position," he said.

"We are clarifying our position to IGAD members of peace mediators and [the] international community that our leadership is committed in Ethiopia for peaceful negotiations," said Gew.

He warned that rebels would launch a military offensive to recapture the recapture the oil hub town of Bentiu should government troops "continue barbaric attacks on our positions".

Meanwhile, a number of displaced residents who have sought refuge at the UN base in Bentiu claimed fighting between the warring parties had resumed in the capital and areas around Mayom county.

Unity state was the scene of heavy fighting between rebels and government forces earlier this year, changing hands several times at the height of the conflict.

The ongoing violence has killed thousands and displaced more than 1.3 million people across the country.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled to neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya since fighting erupted last year.

The European Union announced this week it was imposing sanctions on two top military generals accused of fuelling the cycle of violence.

Maj. Gen Santino Deng Wol, who commands the SPLA's third infantry division, and rebel militia leader Maj. Gen Peter Gatdet Yaka been banned from travelling to EU member countries and their assets will be frozen.

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