January 25, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudanese government and rebel delegations on Saturday traded accusations over violations of a ceasefire agreement they signed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa on Thursday.
- South Sudanese government representatives, right, and rebel representatives, left, in Addis Ababa (Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)
The deal, received with caution from citizens, is supposed to halt military engagements between the two warring parties and pave way for discussions about the root cause of the conflict, which has displaced over half a million people and claimed between 1,000 to 10,000 lives, depending on different estimates.
"The rebel forces have not stopped carrying out atrocities. They are still continuing to attack our forces," South Sudanese information minister Michael Makuei Lueth, said on Saturday upon return to Juba from Ethiopia.
Leuth, in a statement broadcast on the state-owned SSTV, warned that government forces would not stand idle, if IGAD - the regional bloc tasked with the mediating the talks - takes longer than expected to introduce concrete control measures.
"If nothing is done by the IGAD, then definitely our forces will not fold their hands," said the minister, who claimed that rebels continued to carry out attacks because they "lacked a unified command".
"We are not surprised they carried out these attacks on our forces because these rebels are undisciplined people. They have no regular force. They have no central command", Lueth said.
"In that case, it’s not strange that they immediately violate [the agreement]", he added.
Col. Philip Aguer, the spokesperson of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army loyal to the government, confirmed that fighting had occurred between government troops and rebels in Jonglei state.
"The rebels carried out attack on the positions of our forces today. It is a clear violation of the ceasefire which those who negotiated on their behalf have signed with our government", Aguer said Saturday.
"What this means is that the rebels who carried this attack are either operating out of control of those who negotiated the ceasefire or they have decided to violate it", he explained.
Fighting began on 15 December between forces loyal to the country’s former vice president Riek Machar and the South Sudanese army in support of President Salva Kiir, following weeks of tension within the young nation’s ruling party (SPLM).
But an assistant spokesperson for the rebel denied that their forces carried out any attack on pro-government troops, accusing the latter of trying to cover up the army’s attack on rebel-held positions in South Sudan’s Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states.
"Our forces never carried out any attack on the positions of the forces loyal to the government of Salva Kiir. What Kiir’s minister of information said is just a propaganda statement", said Yien Mathew Chol.
"It is actually the government forces which have carried out the attack on the areas held by forces yesterday and again today. This is what they wanted to cover with these statements", he added.
Sudan Tribune was unable to independently verify claims by the both sides. Local officials and residents of Bor, the Jonglei capital, however, claimed they heard gunfire from two different directions before wounded government soldiers were brought back from the front line.
"I spoke to people in Bor town, including General Malual Ayom, and he said rebels carried out attack on SPLA positions today", a government official, who hails from Bor town, told Sudan Tribune Saturday.