JUBA, May 12 – South Sudanese rebels and government troops waged fresh battles on Monday, breaking a new ceasefire deal and dashing hopes to a swift end to five months of brutal civil war.
Both sides accused each other for a second day of attacking the other.
Fighting raged in the oil-producing state of Upper Nile, Defence Minister Kuol Manyang told AFP, adding that government troops had been ordered “not to go and attack, but only to fight in self defence.”
Rebel forces said the army had attacked its positions in Unity state.
Since President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a deal Friday to halt fighting, both sides have blamed each other of launching ground attacks and artillery barrages. READ: Warring S.Sudan rivals sign peace deal.
Machar was “not in control of his forces” and heavily armed militia troops known as the White Army – who smear themselves in wood ash to ward off mosquitoes and as war-paint – had attacked government troops, Manyang said.
“These are irregular forces, the White Army is armed civilians, and they do not know about the cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed,” he added.
“They are the ones that attacked, because they think the war is still going on.”
Rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said the army on Tuesday wrested back control of the flashpoint town of Bentiu – which the government said it had already recaptured – and charged the army with “indiscriminate, intensive and extensive shelling of surrounding villages with heavy artillery”.
Army spokesman Philip Aguer said that monitors from regional bloc IGAD were being sent to Bentiu, capital of the northern oil-producing Unity state, which has swapped hands repeatedly in the conflict.
“We are working on their deployment, so that they can observe the situation on the ground,” Aguer said.