By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
April 29, 2012 (BENTIU) - The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) launched an attack on a South Sudan army (SPLA) position in Panakuach, Unity state, leaving four injured on Sunday. The event was witnessed by a group of visiting journalists.
- Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers drive in a truck on the frontline in Panakuach on April 24. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters)
Speaking to Sudan Tribune on Sunday, the SPLA’s 4th division commander, James Gatduel Gatluak, confirmed the SAF attack, describing it as a violation of the international community’s calls for a cessation of hostilities between Juba and Khartoum, through peaceful negotiation.
Gatluak added that South Sudan is willing to engage in peace talks with its northern neighbour and that Juba’s policy is to avoid conflict, but would act in self-defence if necessary. Juba, he added, is still waiting for the international community to respond to SAF’s attacks.
This was a reiteration of comments made by South Sudan’s vice president, Riek Machar, on 23 April. Machar said that South Sudan was for a peaceful resolution to the border conflict with neighbouring Sudan but warned that should Khartoum continue with its acts of aggression, Juba will respond in kind.
Gatluak described Sunday’s events as the fourth such attack carried out by SAF since the SPLA withdrew from the contested, oil-producing Heglig.
The UN, African Union (AU), European Union (EU), US and other members of the international community have condemned Juba’s occupation of the oil-rich area and called for an immediate withdrawal.
If SAF continues to attack South Sudan, the SPLA will re-occupy Heglig, Gatluak said. He added the international community must "mark this very clear, they shouldn’t blame us again because the South Sudan government honored the request and still the Sudanese government do not give ear to the world."
Previous bombing raids in Unity State have been condemned by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon; UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy; and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan, Hilde F. Johnson.
Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir on 23 April said that the time for discussion was over and that Juba only understood armed conflict.
Khartoum and Juba blame one-another for the damage incurred to the Heglig oil infrastructure.