JOHANNESBURG – South Sudan’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), supported by armed opposition faction fighters in President Salva Kiir’s coalition government, laid siege to the headquarters of rebels loyal to former First Vice-President Riek Machar.
“The rebels are in weak position. They have no logistics and so our forces decided to siege Pagak so that civilians could find an escape route to refugee camps in Gambella, Ethiopia,” the officer, who spoke to the Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity, disclosed on Sunday.
“So Pagak, as I am talking to you, is on lockdown. Our forces are collaborating with SPLA-IO (armed opposition faction peace wing under General Taban Deng Gai) in battling anti-peace elements that have rejected the call for national dialogue”, he added.
On their way to Pagak pro-government forces were reported to have engaged in a number of battles and subsequently seized a number of weapons and armaments from Machar’s fighters.
The clashes were confirmed by aid workers who were forced to flee the fighting in Pagak to Gambella after the former came under sustained air and ground attacks from government forces.
According to the United Nations about 5,000 civilians fled their homes in Pagak.
The head of the UN mission in South Sudan, David Shearer said last week that thousands of South Sudanese civilians were fleeing to neighbouring Ethiopia as government troops advanced towards Pagak, expressing grave concern about the growing refugee crisis.
“At least 25 aid workers have been forced to relocate from Pagak and surrounding areas due to increased insecurity,” added Shearer.
The UN official called on the two warring factions to stop fighting, stressing that there was no military solution to South Sudan’s conflict.
“It’s unacceptable that 250 innocent children, and the people who care for them, find themselves in no man’s land between the warring parties,” Shearer told reporters in the South Sudan capital, Juba.
The South Sudanese conflict started in mid-December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused Machar of a coup attempt. Since then, tens of thousands of people have died and over two million have been displaced.
Reports of human rights abuses, including indiscriminate killing, rape and looting have made the headlines on a regular basis.
Machar fled South Sudan last year and is currently based in South Africa.
African News Agency