South Sudan Rebels Warn of Government Attack as Talks DragWilliam Davison and Okech Francis
South Sudanese rebels said government forces are mobilizing in the eastern state of Jonglei as leaders failed again to agree on a power-sharing deal in Ethiopia.
Troops, battle tanks and other equipment are being amassed in Gadiang and Poktap “with the immediate intention of launching coordinated attacks,” Lul Ruai Koang, a spokesman for insurgents opposed to President Salva Kiir’s rule, said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday.
South Sudan’s army confirmed the deployment, which it said was a “precautionary measure” against rebel attacks. “We are on maximum alert in case the rebels advance,” army spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer said in a phone interview from the capital, Juba. “There is not any intention to attack rebel positions.”
Fighting erupted in South Sudan in December 2013 between soldiers loyal to Kiir and those allied with his former deputy, Riek Machar. The two leaders have “not yet” made progress after direct talks in neighboring Ethiopia on Thursday about a power-sharing deal, including the leadership structure of a transitional government and reorganizing the oil-producing nation’s security forces, Machar said in an interview.
’Unfair and Unjust’
An Intergovernmental Authority on Development summit to discuss the crisis was postponed until Saturday to allow time for East African leaders to try and strike a deal with Machar and Kiir, said Deng Alor Kuol, a former South Sudanese minister leading a third faction in peace talks.
“It’s not that they’re getting closer but the regional leaders are more determined than ever to have a deal before they leave,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
Thursday’s proposal by leaders from nations including Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia to give 60 percent of positions within a transitional government to Kiir’s allies was rejected by rebels as “unfair and unjust”, said Puoch Riek Deng, a member of Machar’s movement. “We will not be able to implement our reform agenda,” he said by phone on Thursday from Addis Ababa. “They will use the majority to bulldozer us.”
The African Union will not release a report received Thursday into the crisis and atrocities during a “critical” time for negotiations, Peace and Security Commissioner Smail Chergui said to reporters Thursday.
“We are not hiding the report,” he said in Addis Ababa. “But we are giving priority to silencing the guns.” If the parties don’t strike a deal on Saturday then “action will be taken” by IGAD and the AU, he said in an interview.
IGAD has repeatedly threatened to sanction those who block the peace process and militarily intervene if the crisis isn’t resolved. The bloc said in August that anyone obstructing peace will be barred from “future governance arrangements”.