South Sudan army lays siege to rebels’ HQ
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.