YEI, SOUTH SUDAN - A commander allied to South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar was killed during clashes in Yei River state on Monday.
A rebel spokesman said Felix Likambu Faustino, the SPLA-IO base commander for Yankonye village, was killed when government forces attacked his troops.
Col. Lam Paul Gabriel, the deputy military spokesman of the Machar faction, said government forces attacked their positions along the Yei-Maridi road, leading to clashes that lasted several hours.
Government military spokesman Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang denied that government forces attacked the rebels’ positions, saying the clashes were between rival opposition forces operating in the area.
“There was no engagement between SPLA forces and different rebel groups. The reports we have been getting for the last three days indicated that the rebel groups loyal to [Thomas] Cirilo and Riek Machar have been fighting among themselves,” Koang told VOA's South Sudan in Focus.
Bishop Hillary Adeba of Yei Diocese of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan confirmed fighting occurred on the outskirts of Yei town.
“We are very shocked and worried, because we have been hearing violations of the [recent cease-fire] through gunshots around Yei. The warring parties should observe the cessation of hostilities agreement because people in the rural areas are very tired throughout the four years [of war]," Adeba told South Sudan in Focus.
Adeba said the civilians need peace so they can begin rebuilding their lives.
Gabriel said the SPLA-IO is committed to adhering to the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in December at a conference aimed at reviving the collapsed 2015 peace agreement.
Kuong also said his forces are committed to the cessation agreement.