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S. Sudan army commander warns against counter-offensive

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July 23, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudanese army commander has warned against launching a major offensive targeting the positions of rebel fighters allied to former vice-president Riek Machar amid repeated violations to a ceasefire agreement signed by both warring parties.

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Soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) celebrate after recapturing Unity state capital Bentiu from rebel forces in January (Photo: Reuters)

General Paul Malong Awan, the national army’s (SPLA) chief of general staff, made the remarks at a news conference on Tuesday.

There is a growing perception that retaking particular towns or areas would result in only short-term gains for the government and would not bring an end to the ongoing rebellion.

The public address was the first since the former Northern Bahr el Ghazal state governor’s new military appointment. It also comes amid a fresh outbreak of violence between government troops and rebels in Upper Nile state’s Nasir and Jonglei state’s Ayod in recent days.

However, Awan cautioned against interpreting the restraint of the government army as a sign of weakness.

“Let nobody think we are not capable of taking back all these areas,” Awan told reporters.

Awan further explained that attacks by government troops on the rebel positions before the 9 May agreement between president Salva Kiir and Machar were deliberately “calculated” to gain ground prior to the signing of a deal, which recommitted the government to an earlier cessation of hostilities agreement.

Prior to the May deal, he said troops from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) had been advancing on several fronts, even reaching strategic Upper Nile town Nasir, before pulling back after president Salva Kiir instructed military forces to honour the terms of the agreement.

“We were advancing in all fronts, but on the way we got instructions from [the] commander-in-chief (Kiir) that they have signed [a] cessation of hostilities [agreement] in Addis Ababa, and immediately we put our operation off where we were,” he added.

Government troops and pro-Machar forces have been engaged in bloody fighting since conflict erupted in mid-December last year amid escalating political tensions within the ruling SPLM party.

The renewed 9 May ceasefire agreement followed a meeting between president Salva Kiir and Machar in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa – their first since the conflict erupted.

At the time, Awan said the SPLA had been moving from Gadiang toward Ayod and Poktap, as well as advancing from Malakal to Baliet, Ulang and Nasir, where they were preparing to take areas beyond.

“They (rebels) did not stop us. We wanted to take all the areas beyond Nasir, said Awan, adding the army had also been making significant gains on other fronts from Guel Guk towards Mangok, Mathiang, Maiwut and Pagak.

Awan’s remarks have drawn mixed reactions, with claims the statements confirm that government troops had deliberately accelerated military operations in the Upper Nile region in days leading up to the renewed 9 May agreement following a meeting.

Critics claim the apparent show of military strength ahead of the meeting represents a clear violation of a cessation of hostilities agreement signed by both sides.

The agreement signed on 23 January, just over one month after the crisis erupted, failed to halt fighting on the ground, with the rival leaders subsequently meeting in Addis Ababa to personally recommit themselves to observing the truce at the urging of members states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African bloc mediating peace negotiations

The latest outbreak of violence in South Sudan has sparked international condemnation, with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon urging Machar to immediately cease all offensive operations in Nasir and other areas.

(ST)

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  • 24 July 08:27, by Simon Puok Nyang Tutjiek

    No way for criminals Kiir and Malong, the president is coming sooner than later, Dr.Riek will be our president whether by peaceful handover of power or iron because the people of South Sudan need him.
    The people of South Sudanese want him to lead them for transformation of South Sudan into democratic federal system of governance before the end of the year otherwise South Sudanese don’t want Kiir.

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    • 24 July 09:54, by truth to be told in SS

      Simon,
      Please brother donot fool yourself Riek Machar will never be a president in the republic of SS mark my word. The worse case scenerio for all nuers is that all their next generations will be completely wipe out if this senseless war can not come to an end soon or later. There is no more war in Dinkaland anymore. Bentiu, Nassir, Ayot and all nuers territories will be a history. So, just pray

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      • 24 July 10:22, by Mi diit

        Paper tiger malong awan will face the real music in the next two months. He should concede failure. He lied to Kiir to appoint him and crush the rebels in 30 days. Now it is 90 days passed. What a liar. Next will be the rebels turn to crush you during the wet season. UPDF is withdrawing cowards.

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        • 24 July 20:34, by Force 1

          Midiit

          It’s been 90 days because you all ran to Ethiopia for your lives. when it come UPDF; we don’t have you UPDF in Upper Nile, Unity and Bahr el Gazelle regions. How come you failed to capture those regions? Uganda troops only in Bortown. Remember; President Kiir is in South Sudan; how come riek is not in South Sudan? Why wait two months for music? why not today or tomorrow?

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      • 24 July 12:58, by Nyesi Ta

        The Hutu majority intrahamwe tried to wipe out the minority Tutsis in Rwanda. Plse. stop ur cheap writing and go ahead and wipe out the Nuer and the rest of the other tribes, so that u idiots, a*** full of ash can own the Republic of South Sudan. Writers like u are a disgrace to ur own tribe, that made the Dinka tribe hated in the country and abroad cos of ur stupidity and barbarism.

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  • 24 July 09:48, by truth to be told in SS

    Riek Machar will never be a president in the republic of south sudan as long as i am alive. Fooled Nuers
    are the one celebrating Riek for presidency and it will never happen. Actually, if nuers are not careful, by
    the end of 2014, all nuers will be a history in south sudan. Either ended dead in UNMISS camps or exodus to ethiopia to joined their brothers there. Riek is lossing ground at all frn

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    • 24 July 22:38, by Adodi Jotuwa

      Let’s go to Addis to have some fun and see how Dr Hopeless offers patronizing smile and pretends to look presidential. After failure of this peace talks, another D-Day is in the offing. Who take refuge to Khartoum, de usual suspect, Dr. Hopeless Riek Machar Teny. Do we need to give him more time to preach his presumed presidential gospel? Ok. Let him try. Will his followers leave him this time or

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      • 24 July 22:49, by Adodi Jotuwa

        I mean, will his myopic followers desert him or vice versa as he did in Khartoum and return to SPLA/M in 2002? The current logistical support provided by Khartoum in broad daylight is only meant to keep Junub destabilized but not to enthrone the usual madafaka who fails to look at himself in a mirror until he’s forced to land in a foreign city of his choice.

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        • 24 July 23:02, by Adodi Jotuwa

          De Madafaka should not point finger at China in order to bring his perceived Western powers on his side to help him win the war, not battles. Western world does not help food-lovers mobilized on tribal sentiment to demonstrate un imaginable absurdity but freedom fighters who suffered for more than 50 years from successive oppressive Islamic regimes in Khartoum.

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          • 24 July 23:14, by Adodi Jotuwa

            It is not a prediction but how I know Dr Hopeless’ political ambition the next peace talk is a waste of time. Let’s see the real warriors in the war theater with or without humanitarian cost since Dr Hopeless negotiates with preconditions, continued violations of IGAD-mediated ceasefire, and continues recruiting Ignorant Nuers at home, in refugee camps and in Diaspora.

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            • 24 July 23:24, by Adodi Jotuwa

              I want de war to continue for at least three more years from now. De only problem is Dr Hopeless will dump his followers b coz he’s not used to experience bush life, only in Khartoum, Nairobi, Addis, London, etc where there is AC, pushy and luxury. This is de kind of leadership that Dr Hopeless is eager to demonstrate, especially to his illiterate young fighters.

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