December 22, 2013 (RUMBEK) - The South Sudanese army (SPLA) is ready to retake key towns currently under the control dissident forces loyal the country’s ex-vice president Riek Machar, an official said.
- Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers drive in a truck on the frontline in Panakuach on April 24. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters)
“[The] SPLA forces are now on the move and we shall keep you updated as the events reveal,” said foreign affairs minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin.
Marial, however, said government was committed for talks with Machar, but warned against any preconditions put for such a dialogue to happen.
He accused anti-government forces of attacking state institution in Unity state, saying such incidences could jeopardise ongoing peace efforts.
Over a week of intense fighting in the capital, Juba, which later spread to other parts of the country saw anti-government forces take control of Jonglei and Unity states, in what is now seen as the worst ever violence since the country’s 2011 independence.
The violence comes after severe tension with senior members of South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM) following the dissolution of the country’s entire cabinet, removal of the vice president and suspension of the party’s secretary general Pagan Amum in July.
President Kiir has accused his opponents within the SPLM of staging a coup and has arrested at least 11 senior figures. Machar, whom Kiir accuses of masterminding the alleged plot, is now on the run, but advised the latter to step down.
According country’s information minister Machar and escaped to his hometown of Adok in Unity state after clashes erupted between his forces and the presidential guards in Juba on December 15.
"Machar managed to escape. He used his boat along the Nile and ended up in his village of Adok and went into Bentiu,” said Michael Makuei Lueth.
More than 500 people, government says, were killed as a result of the skirmishes, with an estimated over 60,000 displaced in various parts of the world’s youngest nation.
The United States has expressed concern over the spate of violence in the country, dispatching its special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan for talks with the country’s leaders on Friday last week.
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