By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
July 27, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Ethiopian government on Sunday dismissed allegations that it was providing support to opposition forces led by South Sudanese former vice-president Riek Machar.
- South Sudan’s rebel leader, Riek Machar, gestures as he talks to his men in Jonglei state on 31 January 2014 (Reuters: Goran Tomasevic)
Last week, Gordon Buay, an unofficial South Sudan army (SPLA) spokesperson claimed Addis Ababa was allegedly providing medical treatment to wounded opposition fighters in its Gambela region.
He specifically cited the recent clashes between government forces over control of Upper Nile’s key town of Nasir, alleging that rebels wounded in the battle found their way to Gambella town for medical aid.
“More than 54 wounded rebels are being treated in Gambella right now”, claimed Buay in a statement.
He urged the Ethiopian government to respect the border security agreement signed with Juba in 2010, and keep wounded rebels out of their territory.
“Therefore, the Ethiopian government must implement the agreement by preventing wounded rebels to have access to hospitals in Ethiopia, particularly in Gambella region,” further noted the statement.
Officials from Gambela could not easily be reached for reactions on the matter.
A senior Ethiopian government official, however, dismissed Buay’s claims that South Sudanese rebels were allegedly receiving support from the East African country or using its territory to distabilise the new nation.
Addis Ababa has never been partisan to any of the conflicting parties in South Sudan, Dina Mufti, Ethiopia’s foreign affairs spokesperson told Sudan Tribune o Sunday.
He however said Ethiopia was only providing the necessary assistance to any South Sudanese refugees crossing into its borders irrespective of their political position on humanitarian grounds.
Mufti reiterated that Ethiopia would continue to extend support aimed at finding political solution to the seven month-old conflict in South Sudan.
“As a chair of IGAD [Inter-governmental Authority on Development] and as a closest friend of people of South Sudan, Ethiopia is doing its level best to bring lasting peace in south Sudan,” said Mufti.
Ethiopia, which is considered as neutral country by South Sudan’s warring factions, has been hosting the peace negotiations since January this year.
REBELS DISMISS ALLEGATIONS
Meanwhile, members of the SPLM in Opposition in Addis Ababa described as “fabricated” accusations that Ethiopia supported their military struggle.
The IGAD-led South Sudan Peace negotiations are due to resume on July 30 in Addis Ababa following its suspension for nearly a month.
According to the East African regional bloc, the agenda of the next session will be to finalise and sign the cessation of hostilities matrix and negotiation on details of the transitional government of national unity.