…President Kiir says implementing peace deal with Taban Den Gai
Clashes between South Sudan’s army and rebels left at least 80 people dead over the past five days, both sides said, as civil war in the oil-rich country rages for a fourth year.
This is coming as a rebel Commander warned against rivalry between two rebel groups under former Vice President Riek Machar and another rebel leader Lam Akuoal Shiluk following the assassination of two rebel commanders allied to Shiluk.
Fighters battled near the capital of the country’s southern Yei state on Monday with 41 rebels killed, deputy army spokesman Santo Domic said by phone. A spokesman for the insurgents, William Gatjiath Deng, claimed victory and said the more than 40 casualties were all government soldiers.
Both sides also said more than 40 of their opponents died during Jan. 5 fighting in Nasir town, in South Sudan’s northeast. There was no independent confirmation of the violence, reports Bloomberg.
Major Gen. Gadget, who defected from Machar’s group before the 2015 agreement said the assassination believed to have been organised by Juba was designed to undermine the goal of the two groups which signed to work towards the removal of the Salva Kiir’s government.
So far, 2 top rebel commanders, all allied to Akol’s National Democratic Movement — have been assassinated in what seems a contest for influence and control of the area.
Peter Gadet, a top rebel commander and one of those who defected from Machar before the signing of the 2015 peace agreement, sees a link between the two rebel factions as a threat to the cause for taking arms struggle against the Juba regime.
“Everyone was caught by surprise by what happened in Upper Nile. Nobody was expecting that. Nobody was expecting that the differences in views would escalate into the killings between colleagues whose objective is one: to remove the dictatorial regime under Salva Kiir in Juba. By turning on each other in the bush, what have they achieved than killing themselves?” Gadet told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
He added, “They have now empowered the regime, which I believe is the one engineering this. It is the regime”.
Gadet said rivalry has shifted to who should have leverage and control over the local people.
“This wave of violence shows there is a real threat that it would derail the focus on the main cause for which these movements were formed. “We are now talking about a security situation that is different than the sectarian fighting, when there are groups fighting against the government and against those who cooperated with the government,” the top rebel commander stressed.
“We now have two main groups in the same community and they both accept the political process. But each one wants to be the sole representative of the movement and within the area,” he added.
Last week, top rebel commanders, Gabriel Tanginye and Yohanis Okiech were killed in an apparent power struggle in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state.
But South Sudan President, Salvar Kiir, said a peace deal signed to end his country’s civil war is alive and being implemented.
Speaking on Tuesday in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, President Salva Kiir rejected attempts by unnamed parties to renegotiate the August 2015 deal. He said that he and his number two — First Vice-President Taban Deng Gai — were working “very closely” together. He said: “We are implementing the agreement”, reports ABC News.
Taban in July replaced exiled opposition leader Riek Machar, who maintains that the deal has collapsed.
South Sudan’s civil war began in 2013. The peace deal did not entirely stop the fighting and it took eight months of negotiations to persuade Machar and his rebel forces to return to the capital, Juba, only for the city to erupt into conflict in July.