May 18, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan has vehemently denied it is using the Sudanese rebels in the fight against rebels allied to former vice-president Riek Machar, stressing that it remains committed to the terms of the cooperation agreement it signed with Khartoum.
- A South Sudanese army (SPLA) soldier holds his rifle near an oil field in Unity state on 22 April 2012 (AP)
A report released on 8 May by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on the human rights situation revealed that Sudanese rebels, namely Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), were providing military support to government troops fighting rebellion in the country, which erupted in mid-December last year following a split in the ruling SPLM party.
However, defence Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk denied that his country harbours or provides any military support to Sudanese rebels, saying it severed its link with rebels fighting the Khartoum regime when the country seceded from Sudan in 2011 following a 2005 peace deal which ended a brutal civil war spanning more than two decades.
“There are no foreign forces I know in this country fighting besides the SPLA (South Sudanese army) against the rebels of Riek Machar,” said Juuk in an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
He said his government had shown its full commitment to implementing a cooperation agreement with the Sudanese government pertaining to security matters.
“This agreement, I mean the cooperation agreement, which contained security arrangements, has the mechanisms which can be used to address security matters,” he said.
“They (the Sudanese government) are very clear on such matters, especially the support to the groups which are hostile to the state they are operating against,” he added.
Juuk maintained that any foreign military support would be obtained through proper legitimate channels of the country in question.
“We are an independent state with sovereign authority. If we need any foreign support, we can do that with another independent state with full legitimacy and sovereign authority,” he said.
“We have cooperation agreements with several countries and we have done this with legitimate governments and authorities. So if we need support of the Sudanese people, we will do that through their government and not individuals or groups,” he added.
The revelations contained in the UN report of Sudanese rebel involvement in the conflict backs claims by pro-Machar forces that Sudanese rebels have abandoned their own cause to support the SPLA in Upper Nile and Unity states. Both states have been the scene of heavy fighting, changing hands several times during the conflict.
Last month, South Sudanese rebel fighters claimed to have killed and wounded dozens of Sudanese rebels fighting alongside the government after fresh clashes broke out in Unity state.
Rebel military spokesperson Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang said in a statement at the time that vehicles seized during the clashes bore JEM markings and were painted in the rebel group’s colours.
The claims, however, were rebuffed by the SPLA’s spokesperson, Colonel Philip Aguer, who described the allegations as “propaganda”.
JEM has also repeatedly denied the allegations, calling on rebels to deliver JEM fighters to UNMISS in order to prove their claims.
JEM has been engaged in an armed insurgency against the Khartoum regime in Sudan’s western region of Darfur since 2003.