U.S. urges removal of foreign fighters in South Sudan

Ceasefire monitors were deployed this week amid skirmishes that have continued despite the truce

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The United States on Saturday voiced concerns over reported violations of a fragile ceasefire agreement between South Sudan’s government and rebel forces and urged for the removal of foreign fighters engaged in the ongoing conflict.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States is “deeply concerned by reports of violations by both the government of South Sudan and anti-government forces” of the ceasefire deal, in comments carried by the Associated Press.

The statement warned of the conflict escalating beyond the country’s borders.

“We urge the redeployment or phased withdrawal of foreign forces invited by either side, and warn of the serious consequences which could result from any regionalization of this conflict,” Psaki’s statement added.

Late last Sunday, ceasefire monitors were deployed amid skirmishes that have continued despite the truce brokered by the East African bloc known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Agence France-Presse reported.

Welcome monitors

Psaki said the United States welcomed the arrival of the first component of the monitoring team, adding that “we strongly urge the government of South Sudan to facilitate (the team’s) important work, which will provide both sides with a mechanism to report any breaches of the agreement.”

South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s government and rebels loyal to his fired former vice president, Riek Machar, agreed to the ceasefire on Jan. 23, but both sides now accuse each other of violations.

Regional and world powers believe that the violence threatens to spill over in an already fragile part of the continent.

Rebel forces have accused government SPLA troops and militias from the Sudanese Justice and Equality Movement – a rebel group from the north of the border – of destroying Machar’s hometown and killing women and children.

Meanwhile, President Kiir’s government accuses the rebels of breaking the truce.

Since fighting began in December, thousands of people have been killed and more than half a million have fled their homes.

(With the Associated Press and AFP)