South Su­dan army lays siege to rebels’ HQ

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - MEL FRYKBERG

SOUTH Su­dan’s Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (SPLA), sup­ported by armed op­po­si­tion fac­tion fight­ers in Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir’s coali­tion govern­ment, has laid siege to the head­quar­ters of rebels loyal to for­mer first vice-pres­i­dent Riek Machar.

“The rebels are in a weak po­si­tion. They have no lo­gis­tics and so our forces de­cided to siege Pa­gak so that civil­ians could find an es­cape route to refugee camps in Gam­bella, Ethiopia,” an of­fi­cer, who spoke to the Su­dan Tri­bune on con­di­tion of anonymity, said.

“So Pa­gak, as I am talk­ing to you, is on lock­down. Our forces are col­lab­o­rat­ing with SPLA-IO (armed op­po­si­tion fac­tion peace wing un­der Gen­eral Ta­ban Deng Gai) in bat­tling anti-peace el­e­ments that have re­jected the call for na­tional di­a­logue”, the of­fi­cer added.

On their way to Pa­gak, pro-govern­ment forces were re­ported to have en­gaged in a num­ber of bat­tles and seized a num­ber of weapons and arms from Machar’s fight­ers.

The clashes were con­firmed by aid work­ers who were forced to flee the fight­ing in Pa­gak to Gam­bella af­ter the for­mer came un­der sus­tained at­tack from govern­ment forces.

Ac­cord­ing to the UN, about 5 000 civil­ians have fled their homes in Pa­gak.

The head of the UN mis­sion in South Su­dan, David Shearer, said thou­sands of South Su­danese civil­ians were flee­ing to neigh­bour­ing Ethiopia as govern­ment troops ad­vanced to­wards Pa­gak. Shearer called on the two war­ring fac­tions to stop fight­ing. “It’s un­ac­cept­able that 250 in­no­cent chil­dren, and the peo­ple who care for them, find them­selves in no man’s land be­tween the war­ring par­ties,” he said.

The South Su­danese con­flict started in 2013 when Kiir ac­cused Machar of a coup at­tempt.

Since then, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple have died and over 2 mil­lion have been dis­placed.

Machar fled and is now based in South Africa.

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