South Sudan accuses rebels of breaking ceasefire

Both government and rebel forces had pledged on Thursday to end five weeks of bitter conflict

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South Sudan’s government accused rebel forces of breaking a ceasefire Saturday, less than 24 hours after it began.

“This morning I am informed that the rebel forces are still continuing attacking our forces,” Minister of Information Michael Makuei said in comments carried by Agence France-Presse, speaking to reporters as he arrived back from the talks in Ethiopia that had set the ceasefire in place. “Our forces... will have to defend themselves,” he added.

A ceasefire in South Sudan between government and rebel forces had so far kept in effect, the army said earlier on Saturday, although infrequent skirmishes broke out before and after it began on Friday evening.

Before the deadline, the army attacked positions in the northern oil state of Unity and in the unstable Jonglei region, rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said, according to AFP.

The spokesman said that South Sudanese government troops, along with Ugandan soldiers and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels from Sudan’s conflict-ridden Darfur region had struck at rebel positions on Friday.

However, South Sudan’s army spokesman Philip Aguer said that the rebels launched attacks on Friday afternoon in Jonglei, but that government troops had quashed the assault and that fighting had stopped before the ceasefire.

“There are no reports of fighting, it is calm,” Aguer said on early Saturday morning.

Lethal conflict

Due to poor telephone networks in large swathes of South Sudan, there is difficulty getting further confirmation on the ceasefire being adhered to.

On Thursday, both government and rebel officials pledged to end five weeks of conflict - which is believed to have killed up to 10,000 people – but both sides have expressed doubt as to the extent that militias can been controlled.

The ceasefire agreement was signed by in the Eithopian capital of Addis Ababa by representatives of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebels loyal to ousted Vice President Riek Machar.

According to the United Nations, the fighting in the impoverished nation has forced around 700,000 people from their homes.

(With AFP)

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