Experts on the South Sudan war have expressed fear that government forces, who have stockpiled hardware during the three years of civil war are capitalizing on the annual dry spell to re-launch a fresh offensive against rebel forces.
The move likely to escalate the recent spate in ethnic violence and genocide according to Keith Harper, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The dry season in South Sudan military history has always been a prime-time for fighting with most of the ugly battles recorded during the spell.
United Nations spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said the body has seen “large numbers” of South Sudanese forces have been moved into the Equatoria region” to support the dry spell campaign. These claims were retaliated by a United States diplomat.
However, in an statement circulated yesterday, South Sudan military authorities SPLA, say the claims are baseless and the only reinforcements done in the region were rotation of soldiers, who have been serving in the area for the two years.
“These are not militias, but SPLA soldiers. They [UNMISS] are twisting this for reasons known to them,” partly reads the statement.
It equated the ongoing military activities to regular military changes like the one the United States and other countries in the western world undertake in order to ensure continuity of the operation.
“In America, don’t they rotate their troops? Those soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have they continuously been there since 2001? So what is this fuse? There should not be a panic. The public needs to remain calm and know that there is no building up of troops in the Equatoria region. It is just normal rotation of troops. Even our commanding officers are subject to regular movement. We rotated them last time. We took the one who was in Wau to Renk. And the one in Renk to Bentiu and so forth, this is done to ensure continuity of the command and operations”, it added.
U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Council Keith Harper told a special session of the U.N. body in Geneva that the South Sudanese government has mobilized at least 4,000 militia members and “is staging these fighters in Equatoria to begin conducting attacks”
There has been numerous reports about the looming war and acts of ethnic cleansing by both government and rebels affiliated to Riek Machar.
According to a report by Human Right Watch, government and rebel forces in South Sudan’s southern town of Yei have had an equal share in terrorizing, killing and abusing civilians according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
Murderous acts of ethnic cleansing, Rapes, torture, arbitrary arrests among others are some of the abuses Human Rights Watch documented in Yei as committed by both sides in the current conflict.
A team from the regional peace monitoring commission was denied access to the area to make an assessment of the situation by government forces.
South Sudan Army spokesperson Brigadier Gen. Lul Ruai Koang said the The Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) which is responsible for overseeing compliance with the August 2015 Peace Agreement and reports to JMEC did not comply with the guidelines in the execution of its mandate.
“The agreement says, whenever CTSAMM is going for assessment, for verification, they must have on their team representatives from the SPLA and from the SPLA-IO. In this case, none of those parties was present in the team that had wanted to go to Yei,” Koang said.