SPLA advancing on Bor: 'We have no ceasefire'
South Sudan’s army chief of staff says that there is no ceasefire in spite of imminent negotiations between the two warring factions set to start in Addis Ababa.
The general says that the army will continue to battle rebel forces in the Bor area because they pose a threat to Juba. But he denies that the rebels are yet near the capital.
“We are advancing to Bor because these people they want to come to Juba. We had some fights and our forces are moving toward Bor, so any time we will be in Bor,” said Lt-Gen. James Hoth Mai.
“Of course us, we don’t have yet a ceasefire. And we don’t want them to come and get us here, so we have to go to Bor.”
Hoth Mai, himself a Nuer, was rumored to have been arrested in Juba, but he dispelled twice these rumors by appearing before the press.
Press agencies reported a cessation of hostilities after a statement was issued by the IGAD mediator General Lazaro Sumbeiywo on Tuesday.
The statement “commended both parties for the commitment to a cessation of hostilities.” However, neither side had actually formally committed to a truce at the time the announcement was made.
General Hoth Mai speaking to the press today also reassured residents of Juba that they should not panic for fear of more fighting inside town: “You should not listen to a rumor that comes through the telephone.”
He admitted though that an incident had taken place near Mangala, halfway between Bor and Juba, where one soldier was killed, but he denied that this was a sign of the approach of Machar forces.
The SPLA took control over Bor on 24 December but lost it again on 30 December. It is still held by troops under the command of the defected Nuer commander Peter Gadet.
Hoth Mai also disclosed that more reinforcements were on their way to Juba. He referred to an incident in Mundri where soldiers mobilizing toward Juba were attacked by a civilian.
According to the top commander, there are also developing plans for an internal investigation of the outbreak of the conflict within the army. He said one committee was formed to investigate the killing of innocent people, and another committee to investigate “the cause of the incident itself, what happened inside the Tiger division.”