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Opposition Forces Accused of Killing S. Sudan Lawmaker

FILE - Rebel fighters hold up their rifles as they walk in front of a bushfire in a rebel-controlled territory in Upper Nile State, South Sudan February 13, 2014.

Officials in South Sudan's Yei River state have accused fighters loyal to rebel leader Riek Machar of killing a state assembly lawmaker. A spokesman for the rebels denied the allegation.

Jacob Kwiyansuk was shot dead by unknown gunmen Wednesday in the Ugandan town of Mijale, according to Yei officials. He was killed while meeting with South Sudanese refugees who crossed the border to escape fighting in the Kajokeji area in July 2016.

Last month, members of parliament representing the counties of Kajokeji, Liwolo, Nyepo and Kangapo went to northern Uganda to consult with refugees about establishing a grassroots-led peace initiative. When his colleagues returned to Yei, Kwiyansuk remained in Mijale.

Yei River State Information Minister Alfred Kennedy Duku accused Machar’s opposition forces of killing Kwiyansuk.

“The late [lawmaker] was shot by anti-peace elements loyal to Riek Machar in Mijale Sub County. The Government of Yei River State strongly condemns this criminal and terrorism act carried out by the anti-peace elements,” Duku told VOA's South Sudan in Focus.

Wayi Goodwill, a spokesman for rebels loyal to Machar in Yei River State, denied his group had anything to do with Kwiyansuk’s death, and told South Sudan in Focus that the group's forces are not in Uganda.

Noel Malish Scopas, who represents Mugwo County in the Yei River state assembly, believes lawmakers' lives are at risk, and called on Ugandan authorities to launch an investigation into Kwiyansuk’s death.

Lawmaker Celina Pita from the Kajokeji area condemned Kwiyansuk’s killing and urged both the South Sudanese government and rebels to end human rights violations.

“We are very sad because we have lost Jacob and we urge the warring parties to ensure that this war stops so that peace returns and not to continue losing lives in this way,” Pita told VOA.

South Sudan has been mired in a war between government and rebel forces since December 2013.

Last week Yei River state officials also accused rebels loyal to Machar of beheading two civilians in Jale village near the South Sudan-Uganda border, an accusation the rebels have also denied.