February 1, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army In Opposition (SPLM/A In Opposition) have accused Ugandan troops deployed in the country of committing continuous violations of the cessation of hostilities signed a week ago in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
- Riek Machar sits next to his wife Angelina Teny in front of their tent in rebel-controlled territory inside Jonglei state, on 31 January 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
The truce, reached by the two factions in talks mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), called for the withdrawal of allied foreign troops from South Sudan, including the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).
However, rebels say there is no sign of a UPDF withdrawal, accusing Ugandan troops of continuing to attack their positions in Jonglei state.
“The Ugandan troops in Jonglei state do not heed to the calls by the international community to respect the terms of the agreement on the cessation of hostilities,” said James Gatdet Dak, the spokesperson for former vice-president-turned rebel leader Riek Machar.
“The UPDF is moving towards Gadiang and Baidit areas, north of Bor town, which are under the control of the rebel forces,” Dak told Sudan Tribune.
He further claimed the Ugandan army was behaving as if it is in charge of the country’s security.
“The Ugandan army behaves arrogantly as if it is the supreme army of South Sudan in total disrespect of the truce signed between the SPLA and the SPLA in Opposition, and have continued to launch attacks on the positions of our troops even today on Friday, north of Bor town,” Dak said.
Dak has called on IGAD and the wider international community to ensure full implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement, which he said includes applying pressure on the Ugandan government to withdraw its forces from South Sudan.
SUDANESE REBELS MUST WITHDRAW
He also called on Sudanese rebels from Darfur and South Kordofan currently in Unity state to withdraw, as well as those in Upper Nile state from Southern Blue Nile who are allied to forces loyal to president Salva Kiir, claiming that rebels from neighbouring Sudan had been attacking the positions of South Sudanese rebels in the areas.
“These foreign forces are a negative factor to the impediment of the implementation of the ceasefire agreement,” he said.
The Darfur rebel group, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), has rejected the claims, saying it had no involvement in the South Sudan conflict.
The SPLM-North, on the other hand, claimed its neutrality in the conflict and called on the two parties to resolve their conflict peacefully.
The South Sudanese government has yet to respond to the new allegations and SPLA spokesperson Philip Aguer was unavailable for comment before publication.
However, South Sudan’s foreign minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said on Thursday that his government would only sanction full and complete withdrawal of Ugandan troops from its territory after the complete implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the return of peace and stability.
The new nation received military support from its eastern neighbour a few days after fighting broke out on 15 December last year between rival factions of the presidential guards, with the conflict subsequently escalating across the country.
On a visit to the Ugandan parliament last week, the speaker of the South Sudanese national parliament, Manasseh Magok Rundial, praised the neighbouring country’s lawmakers for sanctioning the deployment of their troops to South Sudan, admitting that the presence of Ugandan forces had helped save his country’s leadership from “collapse”.