Nigeria – Buhari says Jonathan has declared war on Nigeria

Punch

Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)

A former Head of State, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), on Tuesday accused President Goodluck Jonathan of waging a war against Nigeria by using the   “common wealth to subvert the system.”

Buhari made the accusation in a statement he personally signed and made available to journalists in Kaduna.

The statement titled,   “Pull back Nigeria from the brink,” is his first formal reaction to the   removal of Murtala Nyako as Adamawa State governor and the threat of impeachment against Governor Umaru Al-Makura of Nasarawa State.

Nyako was one of the five Peoples Democratic Party governors who in November last year defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress.

Al-Makura is an APC governor in a state whose House of Assembly is dominated by PDP members.

The Presidency had since denied   Jonathan’s involvement in the development.

But Buhari, who is one of the leaders of the APC, said in the statement that whether or not Jonathan was aware of the development, what mattered most was that it was happening under his administration.

He   warned that the development which was aimed at turning the country “into a one-party state’’ did not augur well for democracy.

The former military ruler lamented   that the recourse to impeachment as a punitive measure against “out-of-favour” governors was an indication that Nigeria was gradually drifting into anarchy.

He disclosed in the statement   that he   had in his private capacity discussed the current situation with the President but regretted that nothing had been done   to check it.

Buhari explained that he   did so   because,   as   a former Nigerian leader, history would never be kind to him if he sat   back and watched   it to continue.

Describing himself as   “ a close participant and witness to Nigeria’s political history since independence in 1960,” he said, ‘‘Our country has gone through several rough patches, but never before have I seen a Nigerian President declare war on his own country as we are seeing now.

“Never before have I seen a Nigerian President deploy federal institutions in the service of partisanship as we are witnessing now. Never before have I seen a Nigerian President utilise the common wealth to subvert the system and punish the opposition, all in the name of politics.

“Our nation had suffered serious consequences in the past for egregious acts that are not even close to what we are seeing now. It is time to pull the brakes.’’

He alleged that the impeachment or threats of impeachment of ‘‘out-of-favour’’   governors     was   to decapitate the opposition.

The general also   said that impeachment or threats of impeachment had become an unwelcome distraction to the   war against   Boko Haram which has put the country on tenterhooks, “with innocent citizens being daily mowed down at the times and places of the group’s chosen and over 200 schoolgirls spending more than three months in precarious captivity.”

The statement read in part, ‘‘Whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan is behind the gale of impeachment or the utilisation of desperate tactics to suffocate the opposition and turn Nigeria into a one-party state, what cannot be denied is that they are happening under his watch, and he cannot pretend not to know, since that will be akin to hiding behind one finger.

‘‘In my capacity as a former Head of State, rather than a politician, I have spoken to President Jonathan in private over these issues, but indications are that the strategy has not yielded positive fruits.

“I cannot, just because I am an opposition politician, fail to do what is expected of me as a former Head of State to help rescue our nation in times of great trouble and palpable uncertainty. History will not be kind to me if I sit back while things turn bad, just so that no one will accuse me of partisanship.

“Yes, I am a politician. Yes, I am in the opposition. Yes, there is the tendency for my statement to be misconstrued as that of a politician rather than a statesman. But I owe it as a matter of duty and honour, and in the interest of our nation, to speak out on the dangerous trajectory that our nation is heading.

‘‘I can say, in all sincerity, that I have seen it all, as an ordinary citizen, a military officer, a state governor, a minister, a Head of State, a man who has occupied many other sensitive posts and a politician.”

He asked the President to tarry awhile and ponder the impact of recent events in the polity   and the sustenance of its democracy.

Buhari said subverting the constitution through desperate moves or deploying the institutions of state against ‘‘an out-of-favour’’ state governor   could only breed anarchy.

He warned, ‘‘The dangerous clouds are beginning to gather and the vultures are circling, and these have manifested in Nasarawa State where the ordinary people have defied guns and tanks to protest the plan to impeach Gov.   Al-Makura in a repeat of the bitter medicine forced down the throat of   Nyako.

‘‘The people’s protest in Nasarawa State is a sign of what to come if the federal authorities continue to target opposition state governors for impeachment. In the long run, the impeachment weapon will be blunted. Positions will become more hardened on both sides and Nigeria and Nigerians will become the victims of arrested governance and possible anarchy.”

He reminded Jonathan to also remember that no democracy could thrive or survive without a virile opposition.

Buhari added that a man in power must realise that he cannot always do things just because he could do them.

The former Head of state said, ‘‘I, along with many other patriotic Nigerians, fought for the unity and survival of this country. Hundreds of patriotic souls perished in the battle to keep Nigeria one. The blood of many of our compatriots helped to ensure the birth of the democracy we are practising today.

‘‘Let no one, whether the leader or the led, the high or the low, a member of the ruling or the opposition do anything to torpedo the system. Let no one, whether on the altar of personal ambition or pretension to higher patriotic tendencies, do anything that can detonate the keg of gunpowder on which the nation is sitting.

“It is time for all concerned to spare a thought for the ordinary citizens who have yet to see their hopes, dreams and aspirations come to reality, within the general context of nationhood.”

Jonathan however described the allegations by Buhari as unwarranted and totally uncharitable.

In a statement by his spokesman, Reuben Abati, the President said Buhari had sadly moved away from the patriotic and statesmanlike position he recently adopted on national security   to “unbridled political partisanship.”

Jonathan said there could be no other explanation or justification for the “completely unwarranted and very uncharitable assault” on his conduct and integrity which Buhari’s statement represented.

He said it was unfortunate that instead of working to put their house in order and resolve the leadership crises and internal contradictions in the APC, the former Head of State and his allies had resorted to blaming the President for their woes.

While describing the fate that had befallen the APC as self-inflicted, Jonathan said he had never in his acts or utterances, recommended or promoted violence as a tool of political negotiation.

The statement read in part, “Gen. Buhari talks about anarchy. He needs to be reminded that President Jonathan from his humble beginnings as a Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State to date, has never in his acts, or utterances, recommended or promoted violence as a tool of political negotiation.

“The Constitution does not give the President any power to intervene in such proceedings and President Jonathan has never arrogated such powers to himself or sought to exert any nefarious and unconstitutional influence on state assemblies in Adamawa, Nasarawa or anywhere else in other to secure undue political advantage for his party as Gen. Buhari unjustifiably alleges.

“President Jonathan remains true to his declaration that no political ambition of his is worth the life of a single Nigerian. The President has definitely not declared war on his own country or deployed federal institutions in the service of partisan interests as Gen. Buhari falsely claims. Neither has he been using the common wealth to subvert the system and punish the opposition, as the former Head of State inexcusably asserts.

“Also, President Jonathan has never at any time ordered that any Nigerian should be kidnapped or that anyone should be crated and forcefully transported in violation of decent norms of governance.

“We therefore urge Gen. Buhari to tarry a while, ponder over his own antecedents and do a reality check as to whether he has the moral right to be so carelessly sanctimonious.

“It may well be time to pull the brakes, as Gen. Buhari says in his statement, but it is he and others who have resorted to idle ‘scapegoating’ and blaming President Jonathan for their self-inflected political troubles who need to stop their inexcusable partisanship and show greater regard for the truth, democracy, constitutionalism, the rule of law, peace, security and the well-being of the nation.”

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Nigeria – over 140 villagers killed in army-Boko clashes

Mail and Guardian

Fighting between a suspected extremist group and Nigerian military has claimed the lives of at least 140 villagers in northeast Nigeria.

Villagers in northeast Nigeria have fled their homes after fighting between the military and extremists claimed 143 lives. (AFP)

Searching roadsides, bushes and fields, environmental agency workers have recovered the bodies of 143 civilians killed by suspected extremists, one of the highest death tolls in an Islamic uprising in northeast Nigeria, an official said.

According to a soldier who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, two soldiers and three police officers also were killed.

The private said extremists disguised in military fatigues attacked in about 20 pickup trucks and two light tanks firing anti-aircraft guns that overwhelmed soldiers armed only with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Enforcing sharia law
He indicated that the soldiers actually led the attackers to the village.

“We had to retreat to our base to reinforce after running out of ammunition. We had to run for our lives,” said the private, who said he hid in a millet plantation. “But they followed us down and surrounded our base and began to shell our building. We couldn’t stand the heat of their superior firepower. We had to retreat into the village after they killed two of our soldiers and three policemen.”

He said the attackers finally retreated in triumph, taking off with an additional four military patrol trucks and two light armoured tanks.

Such accounts challenge the Nigerian military’s insistence that it is winning the war since a state of emergency was declared May 14 to put down the insurrection by extremists who want to enforce strict sharia law throughout Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of more than 160 million people almost equally divided between Muslims and Christians.

‘Our houses have been burned’
An AP reporter watched as environmental department workers piled corpses swollen by the tropical heat into trucks at the near-deserted village where hundreds of homes had been torched.

“We have been picking corpses off the roadsides all day, there are more in the bush … We have so far picked up 143 corpses,” said Abdulazeez Kolomi, an assistant at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency’s chief, Saidu Yakubu, told reporters the official numbers of corpses evacuated was 87.

Women and children were being helped to clamber up into other vehicles as villagers continued to flee their homes.

“Our houses have been burned, we lack food to eat, we have been sleeping in the bush and cannot bear the hardship with the children crying,” said 56-year-old Kaltume Baba-Haruna.

Losing confidence in the military
The few remaining residents said they are angry at both the government and the military for not protecting them.

Villager Abacha Wakil said the gunmen invaded the town at about 7.45pm. Tuesday and did not leave until about 3.30am. When they ventured back to the village from the bushes where they spent the night they discovered the beheaded bodies of 14 young men, most belonging to a vigilante group set up to fight the extremists, he said.

Governor Shettima promised to spend about US$312 000 to rebuild the destroyed village. And he gave families of the 14 killed vigilantes compensation of $1 500 each.

Army Brigadier General Muhammed Idris Yusuf pleaded with the villagers to not lose confidence in the military. “We share your pain and we promise to beef up the presence of soldiers around Benisheik,” he said. “We have not abandoned you as you think: our troops ran out of ammunition and that was why they withdrew to reinforce. They are now back and more are coming,” he promised. – Sapa-AP M&G

Nigeria – 15,000 flee Boko Haram

Mon Jul 21, 2014

MAIDUGURI Nigeria (Reuters) – More than 15,000 people have fled an area around the northeast Nigerian town of Damboa after a spate of lethal assaults by Islamist Boko Haram fighters during the weekend, the emergency services said on Monday.

Suspected Islamists raided Damboa on Friday and Saturday, shooting dead more than 40 residents and burning houses, part of a pattern of killing that has forced tens of thousands to flee this year. They also attacked six nearby villages.

Boko Haram, which is fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria, has ceaselessly targeted civilians this year in rural parts of Borno state, where its fighters fled after a military offensive dislodged them from the cities.

Abdulkair Ibrahim, a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Borno, said the agency had records of 15,204 people who had fled Damboa and the six villages — Kimba, Madaragrau, Mandafuma, Chikwar Kir, Bomburatai and Sabon Kwatta.

Addressing press in the capital Abuja on Monday, Defence spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade appeared to deny that Boko Haram had taken over Damboa and the surrounding areas, when asked about reports that the military had fled and the insurgents had hoisted their black flags in the town.

“We are not conceding any portion of this country to any terrorist group,” he said. “Our patrols are active and they are stepping up their activities to reverse any insecurity there.”

Whether or not Boko Haram controls significant territory, its ability to strike with impunity is destabilising Africa’s biggest economy and making it an unattractive investment destination. Around 200 school girls kidnapped by the rebels in April remain in captivity, despite a vocal campaign calling on President Goodluck Jonathan’s forces to rescue them.

A military operation in the northeast last year initially succeeded in breaking up a de facto area in the northeast that had been controlled by Boko Haram.

But the rebels melted away into the hilly border area near Cameroon. From there they have launched deadly reprisal attacks that are increasingly targeting civilians, after they formed vigilante groups to help the government kick out the militants.

Several bombs across the country since April, including three in Abuja and one in the commercial capital Lagos, in the southwest, have shown they can now bring their insurgency to any part of Africa’s top oil producer. Reuters

 

South Africa to increase nuclear power generation

Mail and Guardian

The nearly R1-billion is in addition to the multibillion-rand nuclear power plans SA is considering rolling out as part of its electricity road map.

Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson (left) said that R850-million had been allocated to undertake further research and development into nuclear energy. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The department of energy will be devoting almost R1-billion to cementing South Africa’s nuclear energy expansion ambitions.

In her budget vote speech on Monday, Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said that R850-million had been allocated to the department and its relevant agencies to undertake further research and development into nuclear energy, especially in regard to nuclear safety matters.

“Regulations for the handling of hazardous materials, in terms of international obligations, and the development of nuclear policies and legislation to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear energy will also be pursued,” she said.

Electricity road map
Key entities in the sector include the National Nuclear Regulator, which enforces safety standards for the industry.

Joemat-Pettersson re-emphasised government’s continued support for the procurement of 9 600 megawatts (MW) of nuclear energy, as outlined in the integrated energy resource plan, the country’s 20-year electricity road map.

She promised to address all the outstanding matters relating to the nuclear building programme, including questions of localisation, financing, funding, skills development, the fuel cycle and uranium beneficiation strategies.

How South Africa will finance the expansion of nuclear energy, beyond its single atomic power station Koeberg remains key. The procurement of 9 600MW of nuclear power is expected to cost between R400-billion and R1-trillion.

State power utility Eskom, already battling cost overruns on its two new coal-fired stations, Medupi and Kusile, is in talks with government to find ways to plug its significant revenue shortfalls. It stated, as far back as 2012 in its most recent application for tariff increases, that it could not fund nuclear expansion off its own balance sheet without substantial tariff hikes.

The state in the meantime has worries of its own, including a large budget deficit and rising government debt levels.

The minister did not reveal the final details of the new Cabinet subcommittee on energy security, which will be integral to plotting the course of nuclear in the country’s energy mix. It will replace the erstwhile Cabinet body responsible for nuclear procurement – the national nuclear energy executive coordinating committee. But she said the “process is being refined and Cabinet will pronounce on this matter shortly”.

Alongside nuclear plans, the department will be turning a renewed eye on the opportunities for gas, including shale gas, in the country’s energy mix.

Gas difficulties as carrier
The lack of infrastructure, including pipelines and storage facilitates had made it difficult for gas to feature as a major energy carrier in South Africa, said Joemat-Pettersson. This was despite the discoveries of extensive reserves in the region, including in neighbouring Mozambique, and off South Africa’s west coast.

The much-anticipated gas utilisation master plan would outline the infrastructure necessary “to open up the gas market for the residential, commercial and industrial sectors”. A draft of the plan was being finalised and would be taken through the Cabinet before being opened for stakeholder consultation, Joemat-Pettersson said.

The plan’s scope includes “investigating the development of a gas- receiving and storage terminal for liquefied natural gas, and to meet the gas to liquids requirements at the Mossel Bay refinery, as well as investigating the conversion of Eskom’s diesel plants,” she said.

“The gas infrastructure development effort is accordingly premised on regional integration with Mozambique in the east, the importation of [liquefied natural gas] and the networking of various load centres for transporting and storing shale gas from the Karoo.”

In addition, the department will release the outcomes of a gas feasibility study, being completed in collaboration with Transnet, PetroSA and Eskom.

Coal still in the mix
Joemat-Pettersson said the department had “no intention of abandoning” coal, but that it was “determined to find cleaner technologies that will reduce the adverse environmental impact associated with greenhouse gas emissions from coal generation”. She emphasised the work being done on underground coal gasification and carbon capture and storage.

This year, the department would also continue to refine the Independent Systems and Market Operators Bill. The Bill, which foundered in the legislature last year, is key to overhauling the electricity sector and improving the access of independent power producers.

Once it was ready it would be submitted to legislative processes in Parliament, Joemat-Pettersson noted. M&G

UN accuses South Sudan rebels of attacking Nasir

UN News Service

UN condemns attack in South Sudan, calls for political negotiations to resume

A family sitting inside a makeshift shelter at the UN compound in Malakal, Upper Nile State, South Sudan. Photo: OCHA

6

20 July 2014 – Following today’s attack by opposition forces in South Sudan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the top United Nations official in the country are calling for all offensive operations to immediately end and for both sides to resume suspended peace talks.

In an emailed statement, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) confirmed that armed youth and defected soldiers (SPLA in Opposition) loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar attacked Nassir Town in the Upper Nile State.

The attack is “the most serious resumption of hostilities” since President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Mr. Machar met on 9 May in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa and recommitted to compliance with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement they had signed earlier on 23 January, the Mission said.

Mr. Ban voiced concern that the attack “undermines ongoing intense regional and international political engagement toward a resumption of political negotiations and a peaceful resolution” of the conflict, according to his spokesperson.

He called on Mr. Machar to cease immediately all offensive operations on Nassir and other points, and on the Government of South Sudan to desist from launching a counter-offensive.

In the statement, Mr. Ban warned the SPLM in Opposition leadership of “the consequences” should any innocent civilian or UN peacekeepers be harmed by the forces.

The Mission called the timing of the attack “deplorable” given the intensive efforts underway by mediators of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to convince all parties to resume negotiations in Addis Ababa.

“It is also worrying that the attack was launched in total disrespect of the presence of the IGAD Cessation of Hostilities Monitoring and Verification Team who deployed in Nassir last month,” said the acting head of UNMISS, Raisedon Zenenga.

In mid-December 2013, political infighting between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar turned into a full-fledged conflict that has since then uprooted some 1.5 million people and placed more than 7 million at risk of hunger and disease.

The conflict also sent nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing to UNMISS bases around the country. UN

 

BBC

South Sudan rebels break ceasefire – Unmiss

South Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA) soldier patrols in Malakal on 21 January 2014 Rebel and government forces have been fighting since December in the world’s newest state

The United Nations (UN) has accused South Sudanese rebels of violating a ceasefire by launching an offensive to recapture its former headquarters.

The attack on Nasir town was the “most serious resumption of hostilities” since May, the UN said.

The rebels said they had seized the town in an act of “self-defence”. The government denied the town had fallen.

Fighting between government and rebel forces broke out in December, leaving more than a million homeless.

President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar met in May and recommitted themselves to a ceasefire negotiated in January by regional leaders.

‘Major attack’

Rebel spokesman Lul Kuang said they launched an offensive because of several attempts by government forces to arrest their commander.

A South Sudanese child displaced by recent fighting cleans utensils at the Bor camp in Jonglei state on 29 April  2014 Hundreds of thousands of people are living in refugee camps

“The fall of Nasir now paves the way for military resources to be refocused on Poloich Oil Fields, Maban and Malakal,” Mr Kuang said in a statement.

South Sudanese army spokesman Philip Aguer denied Nasir had fallen following clashes between the two sides.

“It is deplorable that this major attack comes at a time when intensive efforts are under way by mediators of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to convince all parties to resume the suspended peace talks in Addis Ababa,” Unmiss acting head Raisedon Zenenga said in the statement.

“The attack is a clear violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement,” he added.

South Sudan is the world’s newest state and became independent in 2011.

Conflict erupted in December after Mr Kiir accused Mr Machar, his sacked deputy, of plotting a coup.

Mr Machar denied the allegation, but then marshalled a rebel army to fight the government.

The UN has about 8,500 peacekeepers in South Sudan. They have struggled to contain the conflict.

Map of South Sudan states affected by conflict Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians’ political bases are often ethnic.
News graphic showing the ethnic groups of South Sudan Sudan’s arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Map showing the location of oil fields in South Sudan Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan’s budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state – at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
Map showing the geography of South Sudan The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Map showing access to water in South Sudan After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world’s newest country – and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water – up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Map showing education levels in South Sudan Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan – however, this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Map showing food insecurity rates in South Sudan Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight. This compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).

BBC

Nigeria – Boko Haram reportedly controls Damboa

BBC

Nigeria’s Boko Haram ‘controls’ Damboa in Borno

Screen grab from Boko Haram video Boko Haram fighters are sometimes better equipped than Nigerian soldiers

Nigeria’s militant Islamists are in control of the key town of Damboa in north-eastern Nigeria, a local vigilante leader has told the BBC.

The vigilante force defending the town fled on Sunday, and Islamist group Boko Haram’s black flag is now flying over Damboa, he said.

At least 40 people were killed when Boko Haram first raided Damboa on Friday, the vigilante leader added.

The group has been fighting since 2009 to create an Islamic state in Nigeria.

In April, it sparked international outrage by abducting more than 200 girls from their boarding school in Chibok, in Borno state, like Damboa.

The BBC’s Chris Ewokor in the capital, Abuja, says when Boko Haram seized towns and villages in the past, it was driven out by the military.

However, government forces have failed to launch an offensive to recapture Damboa, he says.

Meanwhile, a military helicopter flying in the area crashed after developing a technical fault, the defence ministry says.

During the fighting in Damboa, some electric installations were damaged and this has left the regional capital, Maiduguri, without electricity for three weeks, a local resident has told the BBC.

Damboa is about 85km (53 miles) from Maiduguri, the headquarters of Boko Haram before it was driven out by government forces last year.

line

Who are Boko Haram?

  • Founded in 2002
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Some three million people affected
  • Declared terrorist group by US in 2013
line

The vigilante leader, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, told the BBC that Boko Haram gunmen had set up checkpoints on roads leading to Damboa and were charging motorists a toll fee.

His forces abandoned the town – a trading centre for people from neighbouring villages – after running out of ammunition.

Boko Haram’s flag had been hoisted outside the home of Damboa’s traditional ruler, and the town’s entrance, he said.

The group had also seized the military barracks, which government soldiers had abandoned after an earlier attack by the militants, the vigilante leader added.

BBC

South Sudan – army and rebels both claim to control Nasir, Upper Nile

Sudan Tribune

July 20, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudanese rival forces on Sunday traded accusations over violations of the ceasefire deal with both sides claiming to control Nasir, a strategic Upper Nile state town.

JPEG - 48.2 kb
SPLA spokesperson Phillip Aguer (Reuters)

South Sudanese army (SPLA) spokesperson Col. Philip Aguer told Sudan Tribune that government forces were still in control of their positions in the town, although rebel forces penetrated some parts before getting sustained military engagement.

“The SPLA forces remained in control of their positions and the fighting is continuing”, Aguer said Sunday.

The military officer pointed out that the positions of the government forces were subjected to bombardments by the rival forces since Saturday, but never responded as they were acting in self defense in order not to be seen as having violated the cessation of hostilities agreement which rival leaders signed in May.

“The rebels of Riek Machar are in it again. In the face of international community, they have violated the cessation of hostilities agreement by launching attacks on the positions of the SPLA at Nasir airport this morning with mortar rounds, rockets and tank fire,” Aguer told Sudan Tribune.

Upper Nile state information minister, Philip Jiden Ogal, confirmed that heavy gun battle locked the main airport, with reports alleging that at least 230 several fighters were killed in the fighting.

He said shelling of the town started on Saturday and resumed at Nasir airport on Sunday, after several attempts at a ceasefire failed. Rockets and tanks were allegedly used.

“The rebels have been planning the attack and so the fighting began last week when they (rebels) started moving closure to the town and commenced bombing the town”, said Ogal.

South Sudan has been spellbound by instability when fighting within the presidential guard force erupted in December 2013, prior extending to other areas and leaving swathes of the country control of the rebel fighters allied to the former vice president Riek Machar.

Repeated attempts by government forces to contain the conflict remain futile despite the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreements. Rebel forces claimed they were acting in self defense as the latter attempted to assassinate their appointed military governor.

The military spokesperson for the rebels, Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang earlier said their forces had for the last three days been fighting in self-defense in order to “protect and prevent unlawfully arrest of the top military commander”.

IGAD CONDEMNS ATTACK

The special envoys from the regional bloc (IGAD) have strongly condemn this attack in Nasir by forces of the SPLM/A–In Opposition, describing it a blatant violation of Cessation of Hostilities (COH) Agreement, signed between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the rebels on 23 January.

“While the casualties of this attack are yet to be assessed, the mediation team is saddened by the continued loss of lives not only of combatants, but of vulnerable groups like women and children,” IGAD said in a statement.

Both warring parties, the regional bloc said, had on 10 June pledged to “end the war now” and establish a transitional government within 60 days.

“In view of the above and of reports of rising tensions in other areas, the IGAD Special Envoys appeal to the Parties to remain committed to the Agreements signed and to exercise maximum restraints and desist from any further violations,” IGAD further observed.

Talks between the two parties, currently on hold, is seen as the best alternative to the country’s seven-month old conflict that has killed thousands and displaced nearly 1.5 million people.

(ST)