South Sudan’s army has conducted a “full-scale” military offensive against rebels in oil-rich Unity state over the past three weeks, with villages destroyed during the violence, East African mediators said.
There have been “credible” reports of civilians being targeted and other rights violations during fighting across five counties of the northern state that have displaced 100,000 people, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, said Friday in an e-mailed statement.
The bloc’s conflict monitors have been prevented from moving from Rubkona airfield since the beginning of the offensive, which seems to be moving into Upper Nile and Jonglei states, IGAD said. The government’s actions constitute a “clear and significant violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement,” it said. South Sudan presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny denied the army committed any violations and said it has acted to protect its territory from insurgents.
South Sudan has sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil reserves after Nigeria and Angola, according to BP Plc data. Its low-sulfur crude is prized by Japanese buyers as a cleaner-burning fuel for power generation. Before the fighting broke out, China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. pumped most of the nation’s oil.
Fighting has occurred sporadically in three states of South Sudan since a power-struggle within the ruling party turned violent in December 2013. A truce agreed in early 2014 has failed to stem the violence, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than two million, according to the United Nations.
Earlier this week, the UN said it had received reports of killings, rapes and abductions by unidentified parties since the latest offensive began.