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SPLM-IO protests to IGAD over ceasefire violations : spokesperson

September 6, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) led by the country’s former vice president, Riek Machar, said they have submitted a letter of protest to the East African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), over continues violations of ceasefire by president Salva Kiir’s government.

SPLA soldiers sit at the back of a pick-up truck in Malakal, Upper Nile state January 12, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)

The opposition said government’s forces and helicopter gunships have continued to carry out attacks on their positions in the country’s oil-rich states of Upper Nile and Unity, which will be governed by the SPLM-IO in accordance with the peace agreement.

“We have submitted a letter of protest to IGAD mediation over these ceasefire violations by the regime in Juba,” Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune when contacted on Sunday.

He accused the government of lacking political will of commitment to respecting the ceasefire declared on 29 August and implementing the peace deal they signed on 26 August.

“For the past four days, government forces have been attacking our bases in Upper Nile state, to the west bank of the River Nile near Malakal, using ground troops backed by helicopter gunships. They have also moved out from Unity state’s capital, Bentiu, and begun to attack our bases near Nhialdiu. These are serious violations,” he said.

Dak denied government claims that the rebels had been delaying the conduct of the workshop on the ceasefire arrangements scheduled in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, saying the leadership had already selected senior military officers to take part in the workshop after ratifying the peace agreement beginning on Tuesday.

He said it was important to first ratify the peace deal in accordance with the provisions of the accord itself before implementation of other provisions kicked in.

Dak argued that in the peace agreement, the declaration and respect of the permanent ceasefire came first followed by ratification of the peace agreement and then the ceasefire workshop and so forth.

He accused the government of violating the very ceasefire which should be respected first before the workshop in Addis Ababa.

In a separate statement, SPLA-IO military spokesperson, Colonel William Gatjiath Deng, also claimed that continued attacks by president Kiir’s forces on rebel positions took place on Sunday in Upper Nile state, alleging that Ugandan helicopters took part in the attack.

“This afternoon at 12:00AM, two Ugandan helicopter gunships used by the government of South Sudan continuing aerial bombardment at our bases in Panyikang county, Tonga and Nyijuat payam in Upper Nile state. They are targeting both military and local civilian population around. The SPLA/Juba faction is continuing making random shooting at civilians and burns some villages nearby,” said Col. Deng in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Sunday.

President Kiir in his remarks during a meeting on Sunday with a tribal Jieng [Dinka] Council of Elders admitted that his army violated the ceasefire, but blamed it on undisciplined officers, warning them of punitive actions unless they respected his ceasefire orders.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in New York has been discussing a US-led draft sanctions on individuals in the parties or party which is seen to be violating the ceasefire and spoiling implementation of the deal. The sanctions would include assets freeze, travel bans and arms embargo, among others.