S. Sudan rebel leaders urge release of detainees

Addressing a Thursday press conference in the Ethiopian capital, the freed detainees said the release of four remaining SPLM leaders would help efforts aimed at finding a lasting solution to South Sudan's ongoing political crisis.

S. Sudan rebel leaders urge release of detainees

World Bulletin / News Desk

Recently-released leaders of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) have called on South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to release remaining political detainees in hopes of facilitating ongoing peace talks in Addis Ababa between South Sudan's warring rivals.

Addressing a Thursday press conference in the Ethiopian capital, the freed detainees said the release of four remaining SPLM leaders would help efforts aimed at finding a lasting solution to South Sudan's ongoing political crisis.

John Luk Jok, spokesman for the freed detainees, who have been staying in Kenya since their release last month, insisted that there had not been a coup attempt in South Sudan in December, as has been alleged by Kiir.

"We were at home that day. We hear gunfire every day in Juba," Jok said. "That day we heard gunfire at the presidential palace. How can we stage a coup d' etat from our homes?"

South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when Kiir accused Machar of standing behind a failed coup attempt against his regime.

Following a month-long first round of talks, the two sides signed an agreement in January calling for a cessation of hostilities.

Former South Sudanese cabinet affairs minister Deng Alor Kuol, for his part, admitted that the SPLM had lost the trust of the public.

"We should restore the trust," he asserted. "Even our people have lost trust. We must discuss political differences to address the other issues."

Kuol added: "We [the two parties] should discuss to restore the trust."

According to a statement read out at Thursday's press conference, released political detainees expressed concern regarding the suffering currently facing the people of South Sudan as a result of the ongoing conflict.

"We call upon the government of South Sudan, the United Nations and the international community at large to increase their humanitarian intervention to save lives and minimize suffering," they said.

They also urged the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East Africa trading bloc, and the international community to quickly establish mechanisms for monitoring and verifying a ceasefire agreed to by South Sudan's warring parties last month.

The conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives. The UN estimates that some 3.7 million people in South Sudan are now "severely food insecure," while more than 820,000 have been displaced by the violence.

Fighting in S. Sudan's Upper Nile State

Fighting between the government's South Sudan Liberation Army (SPLA) and rebels loyal to sacked vice-president Riek Machar broke out again Wednesday in the area of Doleib, some 15km south of Malakal, capital of Upper Nile State.

"Rebels came from northern Jonglei and attacked the SPLA base in Doleib," Upper Nile Information Minister Philip Jaben told Anadolu Agency on Thursday by phone from Malakal.

"The army, however, fought back and repulsed them," he said.

According to Jaben, it was the third rebel attack in Upper Nile State in as many days.

A rebel spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the report.

Humanitarian crisis

Minister Jaben said the recent attacks served to aggravate an already grave situation.

"Many people have fled the area for Lelu and other areas," he said.

"The problem now is that humanitarian assistance has to be rescheduled for them [those who have fled]," said the minister. "Their numbers are, however, yet to be established."

"The humanitarian need in Upper Nile is acute, with internally displaced people stationed in many places and with difficulties to reach," Jaben added.

"The Relief and Rehabilitation Commission and the World Food Program are struggling to get to the people," he noted.

Jaben went on to assert, however, that aid personnel from Doctors without Borders and the Red Cross were managing to treat the sick in Malakal itself.

Since the crisis erupted in mid-December, Upper Nile State has been deeply impacted, with regional capital Malakal trading hands more than once between government and rebel forces.

Service delivery in the state has been severely affected and most means of modern communication cut off.

Last Mod: 14 Şubat 2014, 10:20
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