DUBLIN – The southern Sudanese government forces wound up at midnight just hours after the ceasefire began, as the armed opposition claimed Saturday, while a government spokesman accused the rebels of attacking.
The competing claims showed a shaky start to the latest attempt to end the nation's devastating five-year civil war, which has killed tens of thousands and created Africa's biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Millions are close to famine, and relief supplies are often blocked in one of the world's most dangerous countries for humanitarian aid workers.
President Salva Kiir and rival Riek Machar, Kiir's former MP, had earlier agreed in the "permanent" ceasefire week in neighboring Sudan after their first personal talks in nearly two years. Then they asked their supporters to observe this.
Opposition spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel said government forces and Sudanese rebel militias launched a "serious joint attack" on Saturday around 7:00 am in Mboro, Wau district. Truck and Land Cruiser
"The fight is still going on as I write," Gabriel said, calling on the UN peacekeeping mission and the ceasefire observers to investigate. The opposition has reserved the right to self-defense, he added.
"This is disappointing, even if its president and Supreme Commander Salva Kiir declares a truce, the regime's forces are still violating it," Gabriel told the Associated Press. "There is a possibility that Salva Kiir has no control over his troops or that he does not want peace to come."
Southern Sudanese government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told the AP that the opposition had attacked instead.
"They have a loose leadership, they are not controlled by anyone, the people in South Sudan should be given a chance to lead a peaceful life, and the army is watching the presidential decree, it is very sad," said Ateny. The previous truce in December was violated within hours, causing the international community to reiterate UN and regional sanctions against those who blocked the road to peace.
This time, Kiir and Machar faced a possible UN arm embargo and sanctions if the fighting did not stop and no political agreement was reached on Saturday.
Careful observers inside and outside the country, including the warring factions, have, with cautious optimism at best, kept to the last truce. A joint statement by the United States, Britain and Norway warned that the impact of stopping the fighting on the ground should be seen: "It must bring an end to the terrible ill-treatment that the security forces are inflicting on civilians."
The last Conversations between the rivals still have to agree on power sharing, as the government has rejected the idea of becoming Machar's deputy again. The Civil War broke out in late 201
A 2015 peace accord brought Machar back as Vice President, but the deal collapsed in July 2016 As new fighting broke out in the capital Juba and Machar fled to the Congo on foot through the bush
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