South Sudanese rebels reach oilfields in Upper Nile state: spokesperson
May 19, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese rebels led by former vice president, Riek Machar, have asked all the oil companies operating in the oilfields in Upper Nile state to close down immediately and evacuate their staff for their safety.
- South Sudanese soldiers stand during President Salva Kiir’s visit to an oil refinery in Melut, Upper Nile State, South Sudan on November 20, 2012 (Getty Images)
“SPLM/SPLA leadership has asked all oil companies operating in Upper Nile state to shut down their operations and evacuate their staff immediately,” Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, said in a statement extended to
“We also ask them to do the process of closing down in a safe manner that will not damage the oil facilities and cause environmental damage,” he said.
He said rebel forces already captured Tangrial Bil oil refinery site on Tuesday night and were moving to Melut town, which he said, was only 5kms from the oil refinery site.
Dak explained that the decision to take over the oilfields came in response to the ongoing government’s full scale offensive in the three states of the Upper Nile region.
“In response to the government’s full scale offensive on our positions in the three states of greater Upper Nile region, we have decided to take control of the oilfields and deny Salva Kiir from using the oil revenues to perpetuate the war," he said.
In the Tuesday’s battles over the control of the refinery site, Dak said the SPLM-IO forces inflicted heavy casualties on the government’s troops, including the capture of the government’s warship mounted with heavy artilleries.
He said the oil fields had been besieged and the call for closing down the facilities evacuating the oil workers was a matter of urgency for their safety.
Major General Johnson Olony, the militia commander on the ground said they given an ultimatum to the civilians and humanitarian organisations in the area to immediately leave to avoid being caught in crossfire.
"We do not want civilians to be caught in the fighting. We have asked them, through the media, their relatives, and international organisations and through individuals who have contacted us to let civilians leave Melut town and surrounding areas because we are around it,” Olony exclusively told Sudan Tribune by phone on Tuesday.
“We do not target civilians, but we fear the government could use them as a shield. So we advise the civilians to leave so that they are not caught in the middle", he added.
Olony, who recently fell out with the Juba regime, further said they had contacted foreign diplomats, particularly the Chinese embassy in Juba, to advise their citizens working at the oil companies in Upper Nile to halt production and immediately leave.
“We have no problem with them [workers] and this is why we are alerting them to leave. We don’t want them to ignore this message,” he said.
FIGHTING IN MALAKAL
South Sudan army spokesperson Col. Phillip Aguer said fighting continues between government troops and armed opposition forces in the Upper Nile capital, Malakal.
Aguer told reporters on Tuesday that pro-government forces were in control of the situation and it was a matter of time before they took control of the strategic town.
"The general command of the SPLA is closely monitoring the current developing situation on the ground in Upper Nile. Our forces are in control of the situation and the only update for the public is that there is fighting in Malakal and we are monitoring how the situation is developing, but with difficulty getting the details of the fighting,” he said.
UNSC condemn violence in South Sudan, renew threats for sanctions
May 17, 2015 (JUBA) – The United Nations Security Council has condemned the renewed and ongoing large scale violence in South Sudan’s Unity state, saying military offensives by pro-government forces had led to the displacement of over 100,000 civilians.
- A UN Security Council session on New York (UN photo)
The council further condemned the large-scale attack by armed opposition forces in Malakal, the Upper Nile state capital on 15 May.
"The members of the Security Council condemn in the strongest terms the repeated violations of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement ... and underscored that there is no military solution to this conflict," the 15-nation UN body said in a statement.
"The members of the council further expressed their condemnation of the large-scale attack initiated by the SPLM/A (in Opposition) on the town of Malakal in Upper Nile State", the statement said.
Members of the council, however, called on all the parties to engage meaningfully in the peace process so as to bring about a political solution to the crisis and an end to the South Sudan conflict.
The council expressed concern about the worsening of the humanitarian crisis in the country and renewed its call for the parties to the conflict to allow and facilitate the "full, safe and unhindered access" of humanitarian personnel, equipment and supplies to all those in need and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance.
It further condemned all human rights violations and abuses and demanded an immediate end to them, noting that the government bears the primary responsibility to protect the civilians from abuses and from potential crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The council members further acknowledged the peace process led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), urging renewed regional and international efforts to swiftly implement a common plan and to table a reasonable and comprehensive solution to end the crisis in South Sudan, the statement stressed.
THREATS FOR SANCTIONS
"They reiterated their willingness to impose sanctions against those who threaten the peace , security or stability of South Sudan as established in the resolution 2206 ’2015) and noted the 24 March 2015 African Union Peace and Security Council communiqué On South Sudan and the 12 May 2015 African Union Commission Chairperson’s Statement on South Sudan in this regard", it stated.
Meanwhile, the 15-member UN body also reiterated its full support for its peacekeepers in South Sudan, demanded all parties end intimidation and harassment against the UN mission in South Sudan and stop restrictions on freedom of movement.
The world body further demanded full adherence to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and permission for the deployment of essential assets and enablers currently being blocked by the government of the world’s youngest nation.
“The members of the Security Council underscored the importance of close cooperation and communication between UNMISS and government in addressing these issues,” stressed the statement.
Last week, the head of the UN mission in South Sudan decried the “untold suffering” of people from the devastating effect of conflict that broke out in the country in 2013.
Addressing the Security Council on Thursday, Ellen Margrethe Loj detailed how the conflict has displaced millions of people, yet showing no signs of an end, despite the efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
“The untold suffering of the people of South Sudan must stop,” Loj said.
“Every day without a political agreement contributes to a further deterioration of the situation on the ground, leading to greater displacement and human misery, and risks regional peace and security,” she added.
According to the UN official, the most serious situation is currently in the oil-rich Unity state, citing reports of Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) advancing and fighting as they push into southern areas of the oil-rich region towards Koch, Leer and Adok.
The UN says over 2 million people have been displaced, 1.5 million internally, and 500,000 in neighbouring countries as a result of the South Sudan conflict.. Also over 2.5 million people face severe food insecurity, especially in greater Upper Nile region.