Rebels in South Sudan have accused mediators of allowing the government to violate the recent cease-fire, an allegation the top mediator quickly rejected Thursday.
A rebel spokesman accused the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development bloc and the "troika" countries of Norway, Britain and the United States of turning a blind eye to violations by South Sudan's first vice president, Taban Deng Gai.
Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel said in a statement that IGAD and the troika allowed Gai to travel to Jonglei state, "where he is causing more destruction and displacement to civilians in the areas under the control of SPLM-IO" — the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition.
IGAD has been mediating in the South Sudan conflict since 2013. The body brokered the August 2015 peace deal between President Salva Kiir and SPLM-IO leader Riek Machar, which collapsed in July 2016.
IGAD's special envoy for South Sudan, Ambassador Ismail Wais, issued a statement Thursday describing the accusations from Gabriel as "misleading and irresponsible."
Seen as distraction
Wais asked Gabriel to withdraw his statement, adding that it diverted the attention of the public from the core issue of attaining of peace and security in South Sudan.
The special envoy said he met Wednesday with the chairperson of the Cease-fire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), the group monitoring the December 2017 cease-fire, to discuss recent reports of violations.
The SPLM-IO says CTSAMM is not neutral. The rebels are urging the group "to be transparent and avoid giving intelligence reports to the regime regarding SPLM-IO stronghold positions, facilitating and incorporating the regime's security agents into [CTSAMM's] structure,'' Gabriel wrote.
Wais said CTSAMM has been closely monitoring the developments in South Sudan since the signing of the cease-fire deal last month.
Wais added that once CTSAMM ascertains and identifies those armed groups and military commanders responsible for the violations, leaders of the warring parties will be held accountable.