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Fresh Fighting Reported in South Sudan's Upper Nile State

  • Philip Aleu
  • Lucy Poni

Rebel fighters hold up their rifles as they walk in front of a bushfire in a rebel controlled territory in Upper Nile State, South Sudan, Feb. 13, 2014.

Rebel fighters hold up their rifles as they walk in front of a bushfire in a rebel controlled territory in Upper Nile State, South Sudan, Feb. 13, 2014.

A new round of fighting in South Sudan's oil-rich Upper Nile state has displaced more than 2,000 people, many of whom fled to neighboring Ethiopia, where more than 126,000 refugees have already sought shelter from the fighting, officials said Thursday.

The latest clashes were reported two days after the international community pledged $600 million in aid for South Sudan, where more than five months of fighting have claimed thousands of lives, forced 1.3 million people to flee their homes and pushed the country to the edge of famine.

South Sudanese leaders on both sides were warned by donors at the Oslo, Norway conference that more than $600 million just pledged in humanitarian aid would be uselss if the unrest does not end and aid agencies continue to be prevented from accessing thousands of civilians in need.


Warring sides swap blame


As has happened repeatedly since the crisis began in last December, the warring sides blamed each other for the latest violation of a cessation of hostility agreement first signed in January and which President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar recommitted to early this month.

South Sudan army spokesman Philip Aguer said forces loyal to Machar violated the ceasefire agreement when they shelled the town of Nasir in Upper Nile.

Aguer also accused the opposition of attacking villages in Bar-liet County. He said four civilians were killed and several more were wounded in that attack.

Opposition military spokesman Lul Ruai Koang, meanwhile, accused government forces of trying to provoke the opposition into fighting by shelling its position in Nasir.

Koang also said the other clashes in Upper Nile state involved rival groups in the army. No opposition forces were involved in the fighting, said the opposition spokesman.

“The version that I am hearing is that there was fighting among government forces."

"The people on one side were some Nuer, some Shilluk and some Dinka from Upper Nile state. These three groups, they turned their guns against their colleagues from greater Bahr el Ghazal and those still loyal to the system,” Koang said.


Fighting reported to IGAD monitors


Aguer said the government has reported the ceasefire violations to monitors from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which has been mediating peace talks in South Sudan since January.

Under the terms of the ceasefire agreement signed in January, monitors began working in Jonglei and Unity states in April. Additional monitors are waiting for a regional military force to be deployed to provide protection.

Lucy Poni contributed to this report from Nairobi.

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