Juba — Heavy fighting erupted on Friday between South Sudan army (SPLA) and rebels in Unity state, with the latter accusing pro-government forces of attacking their positions in violation of the ceasefire agreement.
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)
The rebel spokesperson, Peter Riek Gew told Sudan Tribune that fighting started at dawn in Guit, Kaljak and Kuergueyni areas of the oil-rich state.
"We surprised this morning when the SPLA attacked three of our position in Unity state. This is a very clear signal that the government was not committed to the peace talks," Gew said by satellite phone.
"The battle is now around the main capital, Bentiu pushing the SPLA troops away from three attacks on our position this morning to Maan Kuach, 3 km west of Bhar main military barrack in Rubkotna county and Thowmangor, [located] 4 km south of Bentiu town," he added.
The rebel spokesman accused government troops of mistreating innocent civilians in its controlled areas, an allegation Sudan Tribune could not independently verify.
"We are ready to fight them if this is their plan to attack us. Meanwhile our leaders are currently engaged in peace," he stressed.
The rebel military spokesperson, Brig. Gen Lul Ruai Koang further claimed the "long awaited" government offensive operations against rebels had started east and south of Bentiu as well as around Ayod in Unity and Jonglei states respectively begun at dawn.
"This is totally unacceptable development and the blame squarely lies at the [president Salva] Kiir's door steps," he said in a statement issued Friday.
The two warring parties have repeatedly traded accusations of violating the ceasefire agreement signed on 23 January and re-committed to on 9 May in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The South Sudanese army spokesperson was not readily available for a comment.
NO MILITARY SOLUTION
On Tuesday, Samantha Power, the United States special envoy to the United Nations said the Security Council was concerned over reports that arms were being brought in to South Sudan, stressing that there was no military solution to the young nation's conflict.
"The council has made it very clear that it is prepared to impose consequences if there continue to be spoilers, if there continue to be people carrying out gross violations of human rights, United states ambassador to the united nations," said Samantha.
"We will not tolerate violation of the cessation of hostilities and people who spoils peace agreement. We have delivered that message here and we will deliver it to Riek Machar," she stressed.
The US secretary of state, John Kerry on Monday accused both sides of failing to commit to the peace process, a day after they failed to meet the 60-days ultimatum to form a transitional government.