Rebel forces loyal to Dr. Riek Machar are said to have retreated towards Panjak County of within Jonglei State. AFP Photo
By Samuel Ouga and Agencies
THE Government of South Sudan has withdrawn from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) led peace talks in Ethiopia. The government withdrew its peace delegation from Ethiopia on Sunday.
The Presidential Spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny in a press statement said that the delegation was recalled because of the recent violation of ceasefire agreement by rebel forces.
The National Courier reported having obtained information from a South Sudan government source claiming that SPLA forces captured Khorfulus, Kaldak, Canal in Pigi County, in Jonglei state.
The sources at Sector Command intimated to the National Courier that SPLA took control of the county in an overnight military operation involving Mathiang Anyor (reconstituted 8th Infantry Division), Abushok Battalion, and the Third Brigade of the Jamus (1st Infantry Division).
Rebel forces loyal to Dr. Riek Machar are said to have retreated towards Panjak County of within Jonglei State. The opposition fighters are yet to respond to this claim.
South Sudan's government on Friday accused rebel chief negotiator Taban Deng Gai of abandoning the country's peace talks in Addis Ababa and focusing instead on planning attacks on the oilfields.
Government alleged that Taban Deng Gai who was in Panthou up to the October 30, mobilised and led the attack on Bentiu.
"As government negotiators are under instructions from President Salva Kiir Mayardit to stay in Addis for the talk, the rebel chief negotiator Taban Deng Gai is in Heglig busy planning for more attacks on the oil areas,” said the presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny while addressing the press in Juba.
"We would like to assure our people that the President of the Republic is not going to go to war against the very people in which he serves as the President, though our forces have the right to self- defense," he added. The spokesman said that President Kiir remains committed to South Sudan's peace talks despite rebel attacks.
It’s still not clear as to which group is in control of Bentiu, Unity State Capital.
South Sudan’s SPLM an Opposition faction, loyal to Dr. Riek Machar, announced, on Wednesday, that its forces were in control of Bentiu, capital of the oil rich Unity state, accusing pro-government troops of disowning a ceasefire agreement signed on January 23.
Lt. Col Peter Riek Gew, a rebel spokesperson on the ground, in a statement to the press, said “Our forces were forced to take control of the oil-rich town due to the aggressive action of South Sudan army (SPLA) against our defense positions.”
He said government’s continuous attacks on their positions north of Bentiu constituted a violation of the ceasefire deal and resulted to the response by the opposition forces.
The rebels spokesperson also accused government forces of allegedly violating the cessation of hostilities agreement by provoking their forces in Unity state, resulting in the capture of Bentui on Wednesday.
“It has become a habit that government forces attack our positions and rush to blame the violations on us. How do they explain shelling our defence positions for the last three days?” James Gatdek Dak said, adding that rebel forces had the right to self-defence and to pursue their attackers.
Speaking to New Vision, Mabior Garang de Mabior; deputy spokesman for the SPLM opposition delegates in Ethiopia, responding to the new developments said; “Government troops have been shelling our forces and they are the ones also withdrawing from the talks.”
Thousands of people have been killed and almost two million have been forced from their homes by fighting in South Sudan, including almost 100,000 people who are sheltering in squalid UN peacekeeping bases -- including in Bentiu -- fearing they will be killed if they leave.
"The already dire humanitarian situation throughout South Sudan is further imperiled by this violence and risks millions of lives," East African mediators from the regional IGAD bloc said in a statement, warning of the "humanitarian catastrophe induced by this war."
Chief talks mediator Seyoum Mesfin told reporters in Ethiopia, on Thursday, that the region was "not bluffing" in threats to slap sanctions on those fighting.
The UN have accused both sides of using war rather than talks as a solution and creating a "catastrophic humanitarian situation", in a report last month to the Security Council.
It said both viewed war "either as a possible solution to the crisis or a viable negotiating tactic."
Both Machar's forces and troops loyal to President Salva Kiir have been accused of war crimes including mass killings, rape, attacks on hospitals and places of worship and recruiting child soldiers.
Kiir and his sacked vice-president Machar met earlier this month in Tanzania, shaking hands and accepting mutual responsibility for the war.
Garang de Mabior,told the New Vision that Tanzania, through the ruling CCM party is only facilitating South Sudan Intra-Party Dialogue.
“The Arusha Process should be viewed as complementing the IGAD led mediation in Addis Ababa,” he added.