Friday, July 14, 2017

South Sudan Admits Launching Offensives in Rebel Stronghold
July 13, 2017 (JUBA)- South Sudan government admitted that its forces launched offensives to take control of Pagak, a stronghold of rebels loyal to former First Vice-President Riek Machar.

The presidential adviser on military affairs, Daniel Awet Akot said Thursday that the move resulted from the rebels’ failure to observe the declared ceasefire.

“What can one do when the other side does not reciprocate the good gesture and the will to end the conflict? There are people who continue to advocate war. They have refused dialogue and refused to observe ceasefire,” Akot told Sudan Tribune.

He added, “They [rebels] did not declare ceasefire, instead what they are doing is attacking civilians and holding them hostage and using them as their bargaining card”.

Meanwhile, the information Michael Makuei Lueth said the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Kiir does not include Pagak area, a war-time opposition headquarters when the civil war began in 2013.

The minister equally justified the military offensives taken against the armed opposition fighters, saying rebels loyal to the exiled former First Vice-President had rejected the government’s offer of a ceasefire.

“The SPLA-IO [Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In-Opposition] movement led by Riek Machar does not recognize the peace agreement. It is saying the signed peace agreement is over, so they are not part of the peace agreement. The area of Paged has nothing to do with the ceasefire deal,” Lueth said on Thursday.

He, however, said the coalition government only recognizes the armed opposition faction loyal to Machar’s successor, Taban Deng Gai, saying the latter recognizes the existence of the August 2015 peace agreement.

“We don’t have any problem with the peace wing led by Taban Deng. The president had declared a unilateral ceasefire, but the rebels of Riek Machar failed to reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire and started attacking our positions, then we have the right to defend ourselves”, stressed the South Sudanese information minister.

About 5,000 civilians, the United Nations said, have been forced out of their homes in Pagak.

The head of the U.N mission in South Sudan said thousands of South Sudanese civilians are fleeing to neighbouring Ethiopia as government troops advance towards Pagak, expressing grave concern on the growing refugee crisis.

“At least 25 aid workers have been forced to relocate from Pagak and surrounding areas due to increased insecurity,” said Shearer.

Stressing there was no military solution to the South Sudan conflict, the senior U.N official called upon all the warring both factions to stop the 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,” stressed Shearer.

The South Sudanese conflict started in mid-December 2013 when President Kiir accused Machar of a coup attempt. Since then, tens of thousands of people have died and over 2 million displaced.


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