South Sudanese Rebels Accuse Government of Ignoring Day-Old Cease-Fire
January 25, 2014 [ADDIS ABABA] — South Sudanese rebels said that government forces had attacked several of their positions on Friday, a day after a cease-fire was signed that was supposed to bring an end to a monthlong conflict that shook the new country and displaced hundreds of thousands of its citizens.
Analysts cautioned that enforcing a cease-fire would be far more daunting than agreeing to one.
A news release from the opposition that was sent to reporters on Friday charged that the army of President Salva Kiir, along with Ugandan forces, went on the offensive in Jonglei and Unity States.
In Jonglei, the release said, “the attackers were repulsed and suffered heavy casualties.”
Yohanis Musa Pouk, a spokesman for former Vice President Riek Machar, the leader of the opposition, said his side would write a letter of protest to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the East African regional bloc that mediated the weeklong peace talks. Mr. Pouk added that fighting continued late Friday night, after the agreement took effect.
Michael Makuei Lueth, a spokesman for the South Sudanese government, said in Addis Ababa that the army had not been involved in fresh clashes with the rebels. “We’re not fighting anybody by now,” he said, and accused the opposition of trying to find any reason to not abide by the agreement.
Tewolde Gebremeskal, one of the Intergovernmental Authority mediators, said he had not heard any reports that would bolster the opposition’s claims. Representatives of his group are to meet on Monday to work out the details of monitoring the cease-fire and other commitments made by both parties, like access to conflict zones for humanitarian organizations.
On Friday, the United Nations said that more than 500,000 had fled or been displaced since the conflict began on Dec. 15, and that more than 75,000 people were being sheltered on its bases, fearing that they could be killed if they return home.
All parties involved in the talks said that a cessation of hostilities would be a temporary measure, short of a formal peace agreement, and that negotiations would have to continue.
On Friday afternoon, most of the opposition leaders were checking out of a hotel in Addis Ababa where they had stayed during the negotiations. Many of them, still fearing arrest in Juba, their country’s capital, headed to Nairobi, Kenya. Among them was Mabior Garang, a son of John Garang, considered to be South Sudan’s founding father.
Despite the reports of renewed conflict, Mabior Garang saw the cease-fire agreement as a success, though his side had not achieved the immediate release of political detainees held since mid-December, when a clash at a military barracks in Juba prompted Mr. Kiir to accuse Mr. Machar of fomenting a coup. Mr. Machar, who fled into the bush, has denied the charge.
“It was a good agreement because it brings a pause in the conflict where we can have a conducive environment for further discussions,” said Mr. Garang, who surprised many South Sudanese by supporting Mr. Machar, an old enemy of his father’s, in the conflict. “In any negotiation process you don’t always get a hundred percent of what you’re looking for,” Mr. Garang said.