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South Sudan rivals trade accusations over mobilization for offensives

South Sudan's army soldiers drive in a truck on the frontline in Panakuach, Unity state April 24, 2012. (Reuters Photo)
February 24, 2018 (JUBA) - South Sudanese rival forces have issued statements in which each side accused the other of mobilizing troops to carry out military attacks ahead of the resumption of the second round of the second phase of the revitalization of the 2015 peace agreement.

The military spokesman of the SPLM-IO faction allied to the coalition government under the first vice president Taban Deng Gai claimed that senior commanders and officials in the SPLM-IO faction led by the former first vice president Riek Machar are in Ethiopian region of Gambella to mobilize people to regain control of the areas they have lost before the revitalisation talks.

“We are following the mobilization by rebels in Gambella town and others areas in Gambell region, in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia led by CDR James Koang Chuol Ranley, Dak Duop Bichiok, Lam Biliu, Deng Buom, Jordan Man-Piny and many others,” said Col. Dickson Gatluak Nyuot, Spokesperson of SPLM-IO led by Taban Deng Gai.

Nyuot claimed the main purpose of what described as "negative mobilisation" was to launch an attack on Pagak and Nasir and scare civilians returning to their villages.

“The rebels of Riek Machar are not happy that peace and security are restored by the Transitional Government of National Unity. They got used to lawlessness and chaos. They want to continue keeping civilians hostage and used them as human shields. The SPLA-IO in collaboration with the Government forces are watching their movement and are on high alert,” he adds

The Government, he said, shall continue to restore order and rule of law and facilitate the safe and voluntary return of the civilians to their original homes and rebuild their lives.

The former rebel official said the Transitional Government of National Unity shall remain committed to the Cessation of Hostilities and observed it strictly as ordered by the President of the Republic and the First Vice President of the Republic.

“We call upon IGAD, African Union, Troika and the United Nation to condemn such negative activities and warmongering by rebels of Riek Machar. We call upon our sisterly country Ethiopia to expel those negative elements who want to cause insecurity along the border and disrupt the lives of civilians”.

There are over 363,000 South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia most of them are in Gambella as they have tribal links and even Ethiopian relatives from the same ethnic group, Nuer.

For his part, the deputy spokesman of the rebel faction under former first vice president Riek Machar accused the government of carrying mobilisation in Equatoria, Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal in violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement, saying their positions in these areas have been attacked and were following closely their movement in other areas.

Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel said the government was mobilizing to attack the Movement’s positions across in the country to bolster the position of its negotiating team when talks resumed in March. Thus, he said, they were aware and would not be enticed.

The rebel spokesman called on the international community, specifically IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), African Union, Troika member countries and the United Nations to condemn and hold the government and allied militiamen and armed to stop their activities and respect the cessation of hostilities agreement as well as pressing them to sign declaration of principles.

The IGAD mediator, the African Union and Troika countries warned the warring parties against the continued violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement and pledged to impose sanctions on the violators.

The parties are expected to return to the negotiating table before the mid-March as the mediators are preparing drafts of security arrangements and power-sharing agreements based on the positions of the different delegations during the first round of the second phase.