Several people are reported dead after fighting between government and rebel forces in South Sudan's Yei River state, in the latest violations of a two-week-old cease-fire agreement.
Earlier this week, the “Troika” countries of the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway issued a strong warning to the commanders of the warring parties, telling them to respect the cessation of hostilities deal that the government and various armed groups signed in Addis Ababa on Dec. 21.
The fighting in Yei River state was a clash between the government and rebels loyal to South Sudan’s former first vice president, Riek Machar.
The spokesperson of the South Sudanese army (SPLA), Brigadier General Lul Ruai, said Machar’s fighters attacked three SPLA positions on Wednesday, in the towns of Morobo, Bazi and Yondu.
Ruai told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus that three rebels were killed in the Morobo clash and two were killed in Yondu.
A spokesman for Machar’s rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM IO) said it was government forces who attacked rebel positions around Yondu about 7 a.m., prompting the rebels to fight back.
Colonel Lam Gabriel told VOA that seven government soldiers and rebels were killed in the fighting.
Both Ruai and Gabriel said their respective sides are committed to honoring last month’s cease-fire deal, adding that commanders of the two warring parties have been instructed to stop fighting and allow free movement of civilians and humanitarian aid.
But the cease-fire, like previous ones, appears to be growing weak in the heat of South Sudan's four-year internal conflict. More than four million people have been displaced from their homes since fighting between loyalists to Machar and supporters of President Salva Kiir began in December 2013.
The government and rebels have accused each other of violating the cease-fire agreement numerous times.