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S. Sudan army denies amassing troops in Equatoria for dry season offensive

December 1, 2016 (JUBA) - The command of South Sudan army (SPLA), denied on Thursday a report by United Nations mission in the country presented to it’s Security Council that it had facilitated and moved into Greater Equatoria region in support of an anticipated dry season offensive against armed opposition fighters.

South Sudanese SPLA soldiers are pictured in Pageri in Eastern Equatoria state on August 20, 2015 (Photo AFP/Samir Bol)

The United Nations mission in the country, in a Thursday press release said the army’s move a ploy to “building a case for a regime change and sanctions".

The SPLA has, however, acknowledged that activities taking place in the region were rotation of soldiers, who have been serving in the area for the two years.

"These are not militias, but SPLA soldiers. They [UNMISS] are twisting this for reasons known to them," partly reads the statement.

It equated the ongoing military activities to regular military changes like the one the United States and other countries in the western world undertake in order to ensure continuity of the operation.

"In America, don’t they rotate their troops? Those soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have they continuously been there since 2001? So what is this fuse? There should not be a panic. The public needs to remain calm and know that there is no building up of troops in the Equatoria region. It is just normal rotation of troops. Even our commanding officers are subject to regular movement. We rotated them last time. We took the one who was in Wau to Renk. And the one in Renk to Bentiu and so forth, this is done to ensure continuity of the command and operations”, it added.

This comes after ceasefire monitors also claimed they were denied access to the restive town of Yei but the SPLA spokesman denied it a deliberate action and explained that the SPLA had not been notified.

Brigadier Gen. Lul Ruai Koang, who speaks for government forces said, in a statement, that "the agreement says, whenever CTSAMM is going for assessment, for verification, they must have on their team representatives from the SPLA and from the SPLA-IO. In this case, none of those parties was present in the team that had wanted to go to Yei".

He further added that CTSAMM will be allowed to go to Yei once they adhere to proper procedures and protocols as per the agreement.

(ST)