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South Sudan army deny breaking ceasefire, amid UN reports of clashes

January 24, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudanese army on Friday denied carrying out attacks on rebels positions after the signing of the ceasefire agreement in Addis Ababa, although a UN spokesperson said clashes took place in different parts of the new nation.

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South Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA) soldier is pictured during a patrol in Malakal on January 21, 2014 a few days after retaking the town from rebel fighters (Photo AFP/Harrison Ngethi )

"There have been no reports of fighting I received today. It has been quiet", Colonel Philip Aguer, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) spokesperson told reporters in Juba on Friday.

Presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny denied in a news briefing on Friday that government forces carried out attacks on rebel held positions in the country.

"It has been calm today. The government had given out orders to soldiers not to fight anybody from now on. So it is incorrect that there has been fighting," Ateny said.

"The situation has been quiet as far as I know. There has not been fighting since yesterday", the presidential spokesperson stressed on Friday.

He further alleged that the rebel delegation negotiating team had no control over their fighters on the ground.

"We hope the rebels will do so the same so that they honour their signature," Ateny said,

The two officials were reacting to statements made on Friday morning by the rebel SPLM/A in Opposition accusing the government forces in the Unity state of attacking their positions in areas of Dan-Dok, about 50kms south of Bentiu, the Unity state capital, and in neighbouring Upper Nile state.

In line with the cessation of hostilities agreement signed on 23 January, the two warring parties committed themselves "to immediately cease all military operations and freeze their forces at the places they are in".

MACHAR REITERATES ACCUSATIONS

On Friday evening, former vice-president and SPLM in Opposition leader, Riek Machar, the claimed that the government forces loyal to president Salva Kiir attacked their positions in Unity and Upper Nile states.

The rebel leader further confirmed to Sudan Tribune the attack on his forces in Dan–Dok adding that second attack in Unity state was launched at Duar, which is about 70km from Bentiu.

"The government’s forces moved out of Bentiu and attacked our forces in Dan-Dok, 50km south of Bentiu town," Machar said, adding that "The SPLA forces in Bor town on Friday moved out and also launched military offensive against the rebel-held positions in Mathiang near Bor."

Machar also said that other attacks were also launched against his forces in Adar area of Upper Nile state.

He condemned the attacks, which he said were "violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed on Thursday" by the two parties in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Peter Riek Gew the rebels’ spokesperson in Unity state also told Sudan Tribune that their forces managed to repel the attack in Guit County and claimed that the SPLA forces were trying to reach the Kilo 50 area and the Tharjath oil fields.

Gew said that the SPLM/A in Opposition have no intention to retaliate but added that they would continue to defend their territory. The rebel spokesperson claimed that they captured five vehicles as well as ammunition from government troops.

Sudan Tribune was unable to reach Unity state’s deputy governor for a comment on Friday.

UN SAY CLASHES OCCURRED

Speaking at a press conference at the UN Headquarters in New York on Friday, Farhan Haq, a spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, confirmed that there were clashes in South Sudan despite the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement.

"The Mission (UNMISS) says that sporadic fighting took place in parts of the country today," Haq said, urging the two parties to implement the agreement "in full and immediately".

"The UN calls on all communities to cease hostilities and refrain from any act that could harm individuals and properties, or lead to further displacement," he further emphasised. Half a million South Sudanese have been displaced during the five-week conflict, according to UN estimates.

The mediation said on Thursday that it would stop the negotiations from January 24 to 7 February in order to establish a monitoring and verification mechanism and other panels related to the implementation of the signed agreements.

Haq pointed out that the establishment of a fully functioning ceasefire monitoring mechanism is essential for the implementation of the agreement.

The spokesperson repeated that the "UN stands ready to provide critical support to this process".

Last December, the UN Security Council increased the number of peacekeepers in South Sudan to nearly 14,000 military and police personnel to protect civilians and eventually to participate in the monitoring of the ceasefire before a political agreement is reached.

On Friday, the 15-member body issued a press statement welcoming the truce signed by the government and rebel delegations.

In addition, the Security Council "called on all parties to immediately and fully implement this agreement as the first step in a longer process of ensuring durable peace and rule of law in South Sudan and addressing the underlying causes of the conflict through an inclusive and comprehensive political dialogue, national reconciliation, and building effective State institutions".

(ST)