February 14, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese army (SPLA) has continued with new military offensives to dislodge opposition forces from their bases in Greater Mundri counties of Western Equatoria state, officials have said.
- The South Sudanese army (SPLA) has been attempting to quell a rebellion led by former vice-president Riek Machar since December 2013 (AFP)
The spokesman of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) led by the newly appointed First Vice President, Riek Machar, said forces loyal to President Salva Kiir have attacked several cantonment areas and outposts of their troops, west of the national capital, Juba.
“Government forces have continued to attack our designated cantonment areas and outposts in Greater Mundri in Western Equatoria state,” James Gatdet Dak told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
He said government forces on Sunday entered Medewu base, the headquarters of the opposition’s commander on the ground in Mundri West county, forcing the opposition forces to tactically withdraw from the area.
Until Sunday, he said, fighting has been ongoing as government forces were on offensive against a number of villages under the control of the opposition forces including Bari, Kedida, Lui, Lanyi, Kiri, Midi, Loso, Mekki and Mambe.
“Shelling on positions of our forces continued on Sunday evening,” he added.
He further explained that their forces of brigade 2 and battalion 15 had to tactically withdraw from their bases due to the surprise attacks. There were heavy casualties on both sides, he added.
Dak further said civilian populations have borne the brunt of the government’s renewed offensive as a number of villages have been burned to ashes, with many civilians killed, including chief Ofogo and displaced hundreds others.
He said the opposition forces under the overall command of Major General Wesley Welebe have been respecting the ceasefire agreement, but will continue to defend themselves from the attackers.
Government forces, he added, have been reinforcing from Maridi and Yambio on Sunday with the aim to carry out further attacks in violation of the ceasefire agreement.
The opposition leader’s spokesman called on the regional players and the international community at large to put pressure on President Kiir’s government to respect the ceasefire and stop the military offensive.
He called on the ceasefire monitors to visit the areas mentioned and verify the ongoing military aggression by the government.
In Juba, a senior military officer in the government confirmed to Sudan Tribune on Sunday that government forces have indeed been on offensive. He however defended the operations, saying they were meant for specific mission to dislodge the opposition forces from “illegally” established cantonment areas.
The two parties to the agreement, he said, have not yet agreed on locations of cantonment areas in which to assemble rival forces prior to their reunification process during the interim period.
It is not however clear whether the military operations have been directed by the top leadership amidst shaky efforts to implement the provisions of the security arrangements in Juba before formation of a unity government.
The latest accusation comes a day after the opposition officials said government forces also attacked their bases in Ezo county of Western Equatoria and on Saturday attacked their designated cantonment area in Magwi county.
If confirmed the renewed clashes between the two rival armies in the country may threaten the implementation of the peace agreement they signed 5 months ago.