South Sudan army reports ‘calm’ as ceasefire initiated

CALM BEFORE STORM?:Juba said all fighting was resolved before the truce deadline, but it and the rebels doubt each other’s ability to keep the peace


Sun, Jan 26, 2014 - Page 6

A ceasefire in South Sudan between government and rebel forces was holding yesterday, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) said, despite sporadic clashes in the initial hours before and after it took effect.

The ceasefire formally began at 5:30pm GMT on Friday — well after dark in South Sudan — and the UN reported “sporadic fighting” before and after the deadline, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Before the ceasefire deadline, rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said the South Sudanese army had attacked positions in the northern oil state of Unity and in the volatile eastern Jonglei region.

Koang alleged that South Sudanese government troops — as well as Ugandan soldiers and rebels from Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, the Justice and Equality Movement — had attacked rebel positions on Friday.

SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer in turn accused the rebels of launching attacks on Friday afternoon in Jonglei, but said that government forces had beaten back the assault and the fighting was over before the ceasefire deadline.

In the first hours of daylight of the ceasefire yesterday morning, Aguer said the clashes appeared to have ended.

“There are no reports of fighting, it is calm,” he said.

It was not possible to immediately contact rebel forces yesterday and gathering reports from the vast, remote regions of South Sudan — large areas which have poor, if any, telephone networks — is a difficult task.

Both sides on Thursday pledged to end five weeks of bitter conflict, but each has said they doubt the other can fully control the forces on the ground.

The ceasefire agreement was signed late on Thursday in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, by representatives of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel delegates loyal to ousted South Sudanese vice president Riek Machar.

Up to 10,000 people are believed to have been killed in the fighting, which pitted forces loyal to Kiir against a loose coalition of army defectors and ethnic militia nominally headed by Machar, a seasoned guerrilla fighter.