S. Su­dan rebels, army ac­cuse each other of fresh fight­ing

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

South Su­dan’s army and rebels ac­cused each other of re­spon­si­bil­ity for fresh fight­ing Satur­day in the north- east de­spite a peace agree­ment to end a bru­tal 20- month civil war.

The re­newed clashes came af­ter the pact, bro­kered by the re­gional eight-na­tion IGAD bloc along with the United Na­tions, the African Union, China, the United King­dom, Nor­way and the United States, pro­vided for a per­ma­nent cease-fire sup­posed to en­ter into force on Satur­day.

“Riek Machar’s rebels at­tacked Malakal yesterday,” Fri­day, and the “as­sault on Malakal re­sumed this (Satur­day) morn­ing,” army spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said at a press con­fer­ence.

“That’s un­true, their forces at­tacked us near Malakal,” rebel spokesman James Gat­det Dak told AFP, re­fer­ring to a strate­gic north­east­ern town and a gate­way to the coun­try’s last re­main­ing ma­jor oil fields.

“They wanted to seize the area be­fore the cease-fire comes into ef­fect,” he said.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear if the cease-fire had en­tered into force on Satur­day af­ter­noon in the world’s new­est na­tion which broke away from Su­dan four years ago. Dak said it was sup­posed to come into ef­fect at mid­night (2100 GMT Satur­day).

The ac­cord, signed by rebel leader Machar on Aug. 17 and the gov­ern­ment only on Wed­nes­day, gave a 72-hour dead­line for a per­ma­nent ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties.

Aguer said the rebels at­tacked Malakal, the state cap­i­tal of Up­per Nile, overnight “us­ing mor­tars and ma­chine­guns” and re­sumed shelling on Satur­day.

He said one gov­ern­ment soldier was wounded, adding: “Though the army is com­mit­ted to the spirit of peace and welcome the in­ter­na­tion­ally sup­ported peace ini­tia­tive, (it has) all the rights for self-de­fense and for pro­tec­tion of Malakal town and the sur­round­ing ar­eas.”

South Su­dan’s civil war be­gan in De­cem­ber 2013 when Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir ac­cused his for­mer deputy Riek Machar of plan­ning a coup, set­ting off a cy­cle of re­tal­ia­tory killings across the coun­try that has split the poverty-stricken, land­locked coun­try along eth­nic lines.

Fac­ing the threat of in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions, Kiir fi­nally signed the deal this week but an­nexed a list of reser­va­tions that he said would have to be ad­dressed for the deal to take hold.

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