War resumes as UPDF superglues in S.Sudan


UPDF chiefs in Bor, Jonglei state/ New Vision Photo

You may as well say South Sudan is at war, again.

President Salva Kiir and his deputy, Riek Machar, signed a peace agreement and declare a permanent ceasefire last week.

Late on Thursday, state television said Kiir had decreed that a permanent ceasefire, meant to end a 20-month conflict, would go into effect at midnight on August 29.

On the same day, Machar accused a government convoy of gunboats and ferries had attacked the rebel-held towns of Tayar and Ganylel in Unity State.

“We are wondering whether the government is genuine on signing the agreement. We condemn the regime’s continued offensive in the strongest possible terms,” Machar said.

SPLA spokesperson, Col Philip Aguer, told Reuters it was the rebels that attacked the SPLA in Nhialdiu.

He said Machar’s rebels then attacked Malakal on Friday using mortars and machineguns and resumed the assault on Saturday.

But Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, told AFP it was SPLA that attacked their positions.

South Sudan’s civil war began in December 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused Dr Machar, his former deputy, of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings across the country that has split the poverty-stricken, landlocked nation along ethnic lines.

Mr Kiir’s spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, told AFP on Friday the president had ordered the entire army “to stop shooting and remain in their barracks where they are, but they can shoot in self-defence once attacked”.

Rebels now say SPLA is shipping heavy artillery to Upper Nile to launch fresh offensives.

UPDF refuses to leave

Meanwhile, Uganda has refused to pull out troops despite the peace deal which directs all foreign troops to leave the country within 45 days.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr Henry Oryem Okello, told Daily Monitor UPDF presence in South Sudan is not bound by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad)-mediated peace agreement and cannot withdraw.

“We are not pulling out. Uganda is not part of the agreement. We have a bilateral arrangement with South Sudan government like US has troops stationed in Japan,” Oryem said.

Ugandan troops deployed in South Sudan in December 2013 on invitation of president Kiir.

Warring parties agree[d] to a complete withdrawal of all state security actors allied to either party in conflict within forty five (45) days upon signing of this Agreement from the territory of the Republic of South Sudan with the exception of Western Equatorial State, based on agreements entered into by the Government of the Republic of South Sudan prior to the onset of the December 15, 2013 crisis.

Western Equatorial hosts the headquarters of the African Regional Task Force, led by Ugandan military contingent, which is hunting the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels and its elusive leader Joseph Kony.

UPDF spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, says he has not received instructions to leave at the moment.

“So far UPDF has no instructions to pull out of South Sudan. I also know that our MoU with government has just been renewed,” Ankunda said.

Critic Charles Rwomushana, wonders how UPDF will effectively occupy South Sudan if it cannot secure aid and other strategic supplies after the road between Nimule and Juba was closed by rebels.

“The road from Kapoeta to Juba passes closer to Kidepo park and other ground suitable for devastating guerrilla operations. The road from West Nile via Yei to Juba is long, far and not good either. Its prone to attacks from the units in Equatorial province.”

He said the UPDF is therefore increasingly getting under siege and is prone to obliteration.

“It can only withdraw through fighting as there is no safe passage for it and would therefore be vulnerable while on the move. I tell you, when they survive this one, they will never contemplate intervening recklessly in the internal Affairs of other countries,” Rwomushana stated.

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