A spokesman for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) said government forces have launched new attacks in Eastern Equatoria state, where South Sudanese forces are accusing civilians of being rebels or their supporters.
Colonel William Gatjiath Deng, the official spokesperson for the SPLA-IO, said in a statement that surprise attacks occurred in the Lolere area.
“The government forces are now carrying out genocidal policy against the Equatorian people,” the statement adds. Deng said there is “widespread vanishing” of civilians, with systematic killings and rape, and burned-out villages that have forced Equatorians to flee into the forests.
The government’s recent attacks against SPLA-IO troops is an attempt by South Sudan President Salva Kiir to force them out of Equatoria, the opposition said.
In a January 2 piece for Foreign Policy, Cassandra Vinograd details how Kiir’s decision to replace Riek Machar with first vice-president Taban Deng has added to existing ethnic hostilities between Nuer and Dinka.
Machar’s exile to South Africa – Taban Deng this weekend described him as “parked like a car” there – left a peace process in shards behind. Machar will “not be seen again” unless there is peace, Deng said.
Meanwhile, the crisis continues to spread into Eastern Equatoria, where Kiir reportedly has planned new attacks despite his calls for a national dialogue to end the conflict.
“Already, ethnic cleansing appears to be underway,” Vinograd writes, noting ominous United Nations Commission on Human Rights reports that the situation is more dire than previously understood – reports that Kiir denies.
A United Nations Security Council vote on December 23 failed to enact an arms embargo in South Sudan.
Image: UNMISS file photo