South Sudan's defense minister on Tuesday accused rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar of launching three attacks on government troops in the oil-producing states of Unity and Upper Nile.
Defense Minister Kuol Manyang said rebels shelled part of Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, and Nasir in Upper Nile state, and attacked an army outpost in Haluuf, also in Upper Nile.
The accusations mark the second time this week that the government has accused the rebels of violating a near-moribund cessation of hostilities agreement signed a year ago and recommitted to several times since then.
The alleged attacks came a week after the Intergovernmental Authority on Development - the regional bloc mediating peace talks between the warring sides - gave President Salva Kiir and Machar until March 5 to reach a final peace pact. The two men signed a power-sharing deal last week at high-level talks in Addis Ababa, but failed to reach an agreement to end more than 13 months of fighting.
Manyang said the latest attacks by rebel forces do not bode well for peace.
“If Riek Machar is committed to peace, then he is not in control of his forces. In that case, we will not remain with our arms folded. We are the government that has to enforce law and order. These are outlaws. These are rebels," he said.
South Sudan in Focus was unable to reach anyone on the rebel side for comment, or to corroborate with NGOs on the ground that there have been new clashes in Unity and Upper Nile states.