September 29, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudanese rival forces have traded accusations over renewed fighting in Unity and Upper Nile states despite ongoing United Nations summit in New York in support of implementing the peace agreement signed in August by the parties to the 21-month long conflict.
- South Sudanese rebel troops loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar stand on guard in Unity state capital Bentiu on 12 January 2014 after recapturing the strategic town from government troops (Photo: Reuters)
The clashes occurred just hours leading to the meeting due to be addressed by the president Salva Kiir and his main political rival and former vice president, Riek Machar, in New York.
Presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, told reporters on Tuesday that president Kiir, would, through a video link, participate in the meeting in which Machar and Pagan Amum, secretary general of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), would attend in person in New York.
The purpose of the meeting, according to the presidential aide, is to hear from the rival leaders their plans and commitments to implementing the peace agreement which they have signed and what steps they have put in place to address thorny and challenging matters in the implementation process.
But while president Kiir and his regime, according to Ateny, will express commitment of the government and himself to the full implementation, Unity state minister of youth, culture and sports, Lam Tungwar, told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that armed opposition forces, allied to the former vice president, Machar, have carried out attacks on the positions held by the government forces in Leer county in Unity state.
“The rebels are now engaged in unruly behaviours. They are attacking our positions in Unity state. They attacked Leer town today. Fighting is going on as I speak to you, which is unacceptable,” said Tungwar during an exclusive on Tuesday.
Tunguar, who speaks for Unity state’s government although he is not the spokesman of the state government, also condemned the rebel activities and commended the action of the government forces for allegedly acting in self-defense to protect lives and properties of the civil population in the area.
“We condemn this barbaric act by the rebels as the government of the state. The motive behind these attacks is to dishonour the agreement in spite of our commitment as the government at all levels to implementing the peace despite our reservations, yet the rebels are carrying out attacks on the position of our forces in a clear violation of the permanent ceasefire agreement, yet nobody talks about it from the region and among the international community,” he added.
He called on IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), the Africa Union, the neigbouring countries, particularly the government of Sudan to take a stance and hold the rebels responsible for allegedly violating the agreement.
However, the armed opposition faction counter-accused the government forces of murdering a woman in Lelo, Upper Nile state, as they were returning from Malakal town.
“Yesterday [Monday] at 11:00AM, government troops again shot dead a woman and wounded two people at the village near Lelo,” said Colonel William Gatjiath Deng, military spokesman of the opposition group, in a statement he issued on Tuesday.
Sudan Tribune was unable to verify the veracity of the claims from the two parties about the clashes.
Local sources claimed the actions may have been prompted by last week’s renewed clashes between government forces and opposition forces in Duar area, located north of Bentiu.
An indeterminate number of combatants on either side of the conflict were killed in what has been described as one of the biggest violations of the permanent cease-fire agreement which the rival leaders have signed and declared in August.
Observers with considerable security knowledge and information about the activities of the rival forces have warned that resumption of fighting could unravel the deal and worsen humanitarian situation on the ground.