July 15, 2014 (KAMPALA) – Heavy fighting between rebels and government forces on Tuesday sparked widespread panic among civilians in South Sudan’s Unity state.
- Soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) disembark from a pick-up truck in Unity state capital Bentiu on 12 January 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)
The rebels have accused the government with launching attacks on their positions in Kuergueyni, Guit, Nhialdiu and Wichok.
The latest claims come amid renewed fighting in the state which erupted over the weekend.
Rebel spokesman Peter Riak Gew told Sudan Tribune by satellite phone interview that rebels had repulsed three separate attacks launched by government forces on Tuesday and were pursuing them towards the capital, Bentiu.
Gew claimed rebels had killed 100 soldiers in Nhialdiu and 26 in Kuergueyni, saying some had been captured alive, while others had managed to flee into the bush.
Gew maintained the rebel group’s leadership remained committed to a cessation of hostilities agreement signed in the in Ethiopian capital, Addis-Ababa, in January, accusing the government of failing to abide by the terms of the deal.
“It is very clear that the government does not respect the peace initiative, but [is] only optioned for war,” he said.
“We are committed for peace, but our enemies are yet not for peace,” he added.
Gew told Sudan Tribune said the rebel leadership had ordered troops under its command to fight back if government troops continue to attack their positions.
However, he stressed the rebel faction’s decision to retaliate against government attacks should not be viewed as provocative.
Meanwhile, residents sheltering at a UN camp in Bentiu town expressed fears the state had returned to full-scale war.
Some residents told Sudan Tribune the Tuesday’s attack was influenced by state governor Joseph Nguen Monytuel, who is reported to have ordered the national army (SPLA) to clear out rebel fighters from the state’s counties to pave the way for commissioners to resume working.
Rebels accused the government of shelling and launching simultaneous ground attacks on their positions in Unity state’s Mayom county over the weekend.
The claims followed accusations by the SPLA that rebels had attacked government troops on multiple fronts last week in Unity and Upper Nile states.
Oil-rich Unity state was the scene of heavy fighting after conflict erupted in mid-December last year following a political split in the ruling SPLM, changing hands several times at the height of the conflict.