News / Africa

South Sudan Rebels Accuse Government of Breaking Cease-fire

South Sudan government representative Nhial Deng Nhial (L) exchanges a signed ceasefire agreement with rebel delegation leader Gen. Taban Deng Gai (R) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 23, 2014.
South Sudan government representative Nhial Deng Nhial (L) exchanges a signed ceasefire agreement with rebel delegation leader Gen. Taban Deng Gai (R) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 23, 2014.
Gabe Joselow
— South Sudanese rebel forces say they were attacked Friday by government forces, one day after the two sides signed a cease-fire agreement to end weeks of fighting.  The deal is seen as just the beginning of a long, difficult process of reconciliation.
 
In a statement Friday, rebel military spokesman General Lul Ruai Koang said government forces attacked rebel positions in Unity State - a key oil-producing region - and in Jonglei State, north of the capital.
 
Koang said government troops were supported by JEM rebels from Sudan’s Darfur region in the attacks on Unity State, and by the Ugandan forces in Jonglei.
 
South Sudan’s army spokesman Philip Aguer said he had not heard any reports of fighting.
 
A day earlier, both sides in the conflict signed a cease-fire agreement in Addis Ababa that is set to take hold Friday evening.
 
2013
July 23: President Salva Kiir dismisses vice president Riek Machar, cabinet.
Dec. 15-16: Heavy gunfire erupts overnight near military barracks in Juba.
Dec. 16: President Kiir accuses soldiers loyal to Machar of attempted coup. Machar denies coup attempt.
Dec. 19: Rebels seize Bor, capital of Jonglei state. Bor exchanges hands several times in following weeks.
Late Dec.: Rebels seize capitals of Unity and Upper Nile state. Army recaptures them weeks later.

2014
Jan. 2: IGAD mediated peace talks open in Ethiopia.
Jan. 19: UN reports 580,000 people displaced from homes.
Jan. 23: IGAD announces two sides will sign cease-fire agreement.
The deal, mediated by officials from the East African group IGAD, aims to end fighting that erupted last month when a political rivalry between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar turned violent and divided factions of the armed forces.
 
In the past two weeks, South Sudan’s army has reclaimed key cities seized by rebel forces, putting pressure on the rebels to sign a deal.  
 
However it is not clear how much control Machar really has over these forces, which also include allied militia.
 
Rebecca Nyandeng, a political ally of Machar’s, told VOA Friday she is confident the anti-government forces will obey the cease-fire.
 
"What I believe is that all these people are under Dr. Riek, the fighting forces, and I think Dr. Riek will be able to talk with them," she said. "If we’re going to negotiate a settlement, then why should people continue fighting?”
 
Healing political divisions may be tricky. The fallout between Kiir and Machar also represents a split within the ruling SPLM party.
 
As the two sides prepare to engage in a reconciliation process outlined in a separate agreement signed Thursday, Nyandeng says they will seek to unify the SPLM rather than form an opposition party.
 
“We are not going to separate from anything.  We are SPLM and that’s why we wanted to sit and negotiate and now mend the fence and move forward,” she said.
 
Both sides have been accused of committing atrocities since fighting began, with reports of targeted ethnic killings, looting and attacks on U.N. bases.
 
Thousands are believed to have been killed, while an estimated 500,000 have been displaced.

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