Government says fighting continues in Pagak, denies attacking rebels

Col. Dickson Gatluak Joak, military spokesman of FVP Taban Deng's forces allied to South Sudan government (File photo)

Col. Dickson Gatluak Joak, military spokesman of FVP Taban Deng’s forces allied to South Sudan government (File photo)

May 14th (Nyamilepdia) – The South Sudanese government on Monday confirmed that fighting continues in Pagak, the former rebels headquarters turned-government-base, but denies responisbility for provoking the fighting saying rebels under the leadership of the country’s former first vice president Riek Machar attached Pagak in hope to capture the border town early today.

Speaking to the Nyamilepedia this afternoon, the spokesperson of the first vice president’s forces Col. Dickson Gatluak Joak, said the fighting is still continuing in Pagak accusing rebels of waging attack against Pagak.

“The fighting [is] ongoing as SPLA-IO rebels this morning tried to advance on Pagak. Our force in Pagak,came under heavy attack around 10 am this morning from the rebels of Riek Machar coming from the side of Ethiopia via Lare/Kuergeng in Nyandere lake, and Pilual being backed up by local youth in the area,”

“The fighting is ongoing as I speak and the sound of heavy artillery could be heard deep inside Pagak,” he added.

Gatluak said they did not go out to attack pointing out that they remained in their defensive lines inside their trenches accusing the rebels of starting the fighting.

“We as the government we didn’t go out. We remain [ed] in our defensive line [s] inside our trenches. It was rebels that started the fight,” he said.

Gatluak said this is a violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoH) signed in December 2017.

Pagak, has been a military stronghold of the armed opposition group, SPLM-IO before its capture by government troops and their allies in August 2017 after some local youth and SPLA-IO defectors help government operation in capturing the area. Previous attempts by the rebel group to regain control failed owing to lack of military logistics as well as internal divisions engulfed the movement as FVP Taban Deng Gai lure some to leave Machar’s camp.

South Sudan descended into civil war in December 2013 after forces loyal to the country’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardiit and his then Governor of Northern Bahr Al-Ghazal State Gen. Paul Malong Awan went door-to-door in the capital Juba killing civilians belonging to the Nuer ethnic group sparking a nation-wide protests from top army generals from the Nuer leading to a civil war.

A peace agreement signed in August 2015 by President Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar and negotiated under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU) in presence of Troika and other international observers collapsed in July 2016 following fighting at the presidential palace in Juba “J1” reportedly after President Kiir ordered a failed attempt to arrest the SPLM-IO leader Riek Machar.

Late last year, the IGAD decided to revive the peace agreement and had initiated a peace revival mechanism known as the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) to bring back to life the 2015 peace agreement. Previous rounds of the HLRF has been unsuccessful and the IGAD said it expect the warring parties to negotiate on the last round of talks on 17th of May.

Representatives of the negotiating parties are currently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after the mediation invited them for consultations.