July 26, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudanese forces loyal to President Salva Kiir have been accused of carrying out fresh attacks against forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) led by the former First Vice President, Riek Machar.
- A batch of the SPLA-IO forces after arrival in Juba, 1 April, 2016 (ST Photo)
Machar was replaced on Monday with his ex-minister of Mining, Taban Deng Gai, in a process described as illegal by his officials but accepted by President Kiir, who appointed Gai as acting First Vice President.
President Kiir said he did not know where Machar has been hiding and could not respond to his 48 hours ultimatum. His former deputy has been demanding deployment of third party force in order to guarantee his safety in Juba following fighting two weeks ago which forced him to flee from the capital.
The former first deputy has however remained in charge of the SPLA-IO forces across the country as well as continuing to lead over 95% of the political leadership, according to his officials.
While President Kiir has called on Machar to return to Juba despite being replaced with Gai, his spokesperson said forces loyal to President Kiir have instead gone on offensive to hunt for his former deputy in the bushes, south and west of the capital, Juba.
“Their forces have been on offensive since last week, and our forces have been repulsing them in self-defence. There maybe escalation of fighting due to this violation of the July 11 cessation of hostilities declared by the two leaders,” Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, said on Tuesday.
“Even today [Tuesday] they have continued to dispatch troops from Juba and from other locations such as Maridi to go into the bushes to hunt for our Chairman and Commander-in-Chief, Dr. Riek Machar,” he added.
He said hundreds of President Kiir’s forces are believed to have been killed in the forests, saying “it is unfortunate to continue to waste lives of soldiers.”
He also added that helicopter gunships belonging to the faction loyal to President Kiir have been bombing forests randomly trying to locate and harm Machar and his forces.
Dak however said Machar is together with his troops and will continue to fight back in self-defence, or “even pursue President Kiir’s forces” if the attacks will continue.
He said he has been in contact with Machar whom he described as well protected by his forces.
The opposition leader’s spokesperson said the leadership of the SPLA-IO forces are not however interested in further escalating the fighting. He called on President Kiir to stop his forces from carrying out the attacks in search for Machar.