Africa

South Sudan ceasefire agreement in jeopardy

Carl Odera, Duncan Miriri

The government and rebels have traded accusations of breaking the ceasefire deal intended to calm violence in South Sudan.

President Salva Kiir's government signed a ceasefire deal with the rebels led by former vice-president Riek Machar. (AFP)

The government and rebels in South Sudan traded accusations on Saturday of breaking a ceasefire deal supposed to calm violence that has driven half a million people from their homes.

"The rebel forces are still continuing to attack our forces," Information Minister Michael Makeui Lueth said on arrival from Ethiopia, where President Salva Kiir's government signed a deal on Thursday with the rebels led by former vice-president Riek Machar.

The deal came into effect on Friday night after a 24-hour window under an agreement brokered by Igad, a regional grouping of nations.

"If nothing is done by the Igad, then definitely our forces will not fold their hands," Lueth said.

Accusation reversal
A rebel spokesperson accused the government of launching attacks on their positions in Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile states soon after the agreement was signed.

"For them to turn around and accuse us is ridiculous," said Lul Ruai Koang in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

Igad's mediators were not immediately available to comment.

The rebellion, which broke out in Africa's newest state in the middle of last month, has pitted Kiir's troops against those loyal to Machar, as well as more autonomous groups.

Lueth said that could be why rebel soldiers were still carrying out attacks, as they lacked a unified command.

"Rebels are undisciplined people. They have no regular force. They have no central command. In that case, it's not strange that they immediately violate [the agreement]," the minister said.

Central command
Koang rejected the claim. "We do not have factions. We have one central command. It is the government that has three commands," he said, citing the tribal army under the control of the president, the national army and the Ugandan troops who have been fighting alongside the government.

Although initially caused by a political row, the conflict has taken a tribal turn with Kiir's Dinka clashing with Machar's Nuer. Thousands of people have been killed.

A journalist in the town of Bor, to the north of the capital, heard shelling at lunchtime on Saturday and saw two government soldiers who had just been wounded in the fighting.

"This is clearly a violation of the cessation of hostilities," Malual Ayom, a government army commander told reporters in Bor.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan to the north in 2011 after decades of war between both sides. – Reuters

 Additional reporting by Njuwa Maina in Bor

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