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South Sudan's Ceasefire Broken by Both Sides, Monitors Say


FILE - SPLA-IO (SPLA-In Opposition) rebels carry an injured rebel after an assault on government SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army) soldiers, on the road between Kaya and Yondu, South Sudan, August 26, 2017.

The body that monitors South Sudan's shaky truce is blaming rebels for a Christmas Eve attack that killed 15 people and wounded 26 others.

The monitors, known as CTSAMM (Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism), said Tuesday that rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar attacked the village of Koch in the former Unity State. It said three children were among those killed.

The report said monitors confirmed the details by talking to witnesses and a local rebel commander, who said the attack was in response to a cattle raid.

The monitors called the attack a "clear and blatant violation" of the cessation-of-hostilities agreement that South Sudan's government and rebel groups signed last month in Addis Ababa.

There was no immediate response from Machar's group, known as the SPLM-IO.

In a separate report Tuesday, the monitoring body said fighters on all sides are committing rapes, beatings and other acts of sexual violence against women.

It singled out government military personnel in Juba, saying they "appear to be able to act with impunity and that they do not understand the significance and consequence of their actions."

More alleged cease-fire violations

The ceasefire has appeared at risk of collapsing as the warring sides continue to trade accusations of violations.

Kosti Manibe, a spokesman for another rebel faction, accused South Sudan's current vice president, Taban Deng Gai, of a fresh violation this week. He said Gai is visiting several areas in Jonglei and Upper Nile states with a huge number of soldiers who are well armed.

South Sudan First Vice President Taban Deng Gai with soldiers (handout photo).
South Sudan First Vice President Taban Deng Gai with soldiers (handout photo).

Article one, section two of the deal states that all forces shall immediately freeze in their locations, except for movements authorized by CTSAMM for logistical and administrative purposes.

‘’That type of movement as per the cessation of hostilities agreement is a violation. That is why we specifically mentioned it,’’ Manibe said.

Gai’s military spokesman, Col. Dickson Gatluak, denied accusations that the first vice president is in those areas to incite violence. He issued a press statement Sunday stating that the first vice president was on a ‘’peace mission."

He also said more than four rebel battalions loyal to Machar in the villages of Gawaar, Lou Nuer, Beih and Fangak have defected to Gai this week.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, African Union Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the "troika" countries of Norway, United Kingdom and the United States issued statements last week condemning the cease-fire violations in South Sudan.

Government and rebel forces have been fighting since December 2013, creating a massive humanitarian crisis. Some 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced from their homes, with 2 million fleeing to neighboring countries.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.