April 6, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese army (SPLA) and fighters allied to former vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar have traded accusations over alleged violations of a ceasefire agreement signed in January.
- Soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) on patrol in Lakes state’s Yirol East county on 15 February 2014 (Photo: Fabio Bucciarelli/Al Jazeera)
SPLA spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer has accused rebels of carrying out a campaign of mass mobilisation of the civil population with clear intent to launch an attack on government positions, describing it “belligerent act” against the cessation of hostilities agreement.
Aguer said it appeared rebels were particularly targeting oil fields in Upper Nile state, adding that attempts over the past few days had been repulsed.
Although the general security situation in the country remained relatively calm, the military spokesperson said the army was remaining vigilant and a disarmament campaign is ongoing.
“The SPLA forces have collected over 500 different types of weapons in Juba and this operation is still continuing until there are no weapons in the hands of unauthorised users. The reason is to keep Juba weapons free town so that no-one feels unsafe”, Aguer told reporters.
He denied claims that the army had launched an attack on rebel-held positions in Upper Nile state, saying he was not aware of any new offensive.
In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Monday, Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang, the spokesperson for the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition, said that government troops had launched an attack on rebel forces in Tonga payam (district) and Panyikang county in Upper Nile state.
Koang claimed a combined force comprising of two battalions from the Sudanese rebel groups Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLA-N) had re-occupied the area on 5 April after rebel forces conducted a “well-planned and organised tactical withdrawal”.
General Koang also claimed that separate military offensives in neighbouring oil-rich Unity state’s Mayom and Koc counties had left an unimaginable trail of destruction after government troops attacked Chotcharah, Tanyier Gardeng, Lare and Gotni villages west and south of Mayom county. Buaw and Pakur payams in Koch were also burned down.
“Kiir’s forces and allies escalation of the conflict is a clear violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement and confirms [the] government’s belief in military solution. The SPLA/M in Opposition condemns in the strongest terms possible repeated violations and reserves the right to fight in self-defence whenever attacked anywhere in the country,” Koang said in the statement.