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South Sudan Blames Rebels for ‘Fresh’ Fighting

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (C), South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (L) and South Sudan rebel chief Riek Machar (R) attend a meeting in Addis Ababa, March 3, 2015.

FILE - Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (C), South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (L) and South Sudan rebel chief Riek Machar (R) attend a meeting in Addis Ababa, March 3, 2015.

The spokesman for South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, says the international community should take notice of the violation of the recent peace accord after rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar launched a major assault Friday in Malakal.

“The rebels attacked Malakal since yesterday in a very unprovoked manner and they are fighting with our forces. So this is a clear violation of the cessation of hostilities [agreement] and international actors should see it on this basis,” said Ateny Wek Ateny. “I hope the international community gets access to realize how the rebels have actually attacked our forces.”

Ateny also says the government in Juba will launch an investigation into a report accusing the national army of committing gross human rights violations in the country’s ongoing conflict with the rebels.

A report released Friday by The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) — a regional grouping — says mediators received credible information of “violence targeting civilians, grave human rights abuses and destruction of villages” during an offensive that began in Unity State and spread to Jonglei and Upper Nile States.

The statement said government forces have denied freedom of movement to IGAD monitors in the Unity State capital, Bentiu, since the offensive began April 27. It also said the acts add up to a "significant violation" of a cessation-of-hostilities agreement the government and rebels signed last year. Ateny said the government in Juba will cooperate with the international community to find a way of resolving the conflict.

“The reports came out before the government of South Sudan was informed about the nature of atrocities committed and where they were committed and who has committed them,” said Ateny.

“The government would always want to bring to book those who take the laws into their own hands. It is incumbent on the government of the republic of South Sudan…We will investigate and as soon as possible we will bring to book those who have committed [the atrocities].”

Critics say President Kiir is to blame for the atrocities committed by the army since he is the commander in chief. They also called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute him for war crimes and crimes against humanity using the IGAD report as proof. Ateny disagreed.

“That’s not fair at all [because] he did not trigger what is now the fighting in South Sudan. The president is a victim of the attempted coup that Riek Machar carried out,” said Ateny. “The president has been going to Addis Ababa to negotiate with the rebels to bring peace and he should be supported by the international community instead of [being] condemned.”

“We have seen how the international actors have been unfair against the government all the time when there is violation of the cessation of hostilities [agreement]. Even if it comes from the rebels, it always says the two sides… As far as we know as government officials the government’s army is not on offensive at all. It is on self-defense and it is the rebels who are advancing to the areas controlled by the government army,” Ateny added.

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