S. Sudan rebel group vows no return to war despite challenge

South Sudan’s main rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in opposition (SPLM-IO), said on Wednesday its members will not return to war despite challenges in implementing the remaining outstanding issues in the peace deal.

Lam Paul Gabriel, spokesperson of SPLA-IO under former First Vice President Riek Machar said their soldiers are tired of fighting and are looking forward to taking up different assignments within the 83,000 unified forces agreed upon with the government. “All soldiers are tired of fighting.

“All we want is peace to return to this country because nobody is benefiting from this war. Our political differences are over. What is now killing us are tribal differences,” Gabriel told journalists in Juba.

In mid-September, a United Nations (UN) panel of experts warned that the warring parties could return to war while citing rise in recruitment of children by both sides within their rank and file.

Gabriel said they have already screened and registered about 19,000 troops on their side to be part of the national security and regular force despite challenges like persistent lack of food, clean water, medicines and accommodation in the over 30 cantonment sites across the country.

“We want to assure people out there that we shall continue to implement the security arrangements in good faith,” he disclosed.

The spokesman also urged members of the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) and UN Mission in South Sudan to visit Maiwut state and conduct investigations in order to help diffuse tensions in the area. 

Gabriel revealed that they are not recruiting children as alleged by the UN investigators and further called on the CTSAMVM to also work on disarmament of civilians wielding guns in cattle camps.

“CTSAMVM is only talking of cantonment of soldiers with guns. What about these civilians with guns,” he said.

South Sudan descended into conflict in December 2013, pitting forces loyal to Riek Machar against troops loyal to President Kiir, leading to the death of tens of thousands and the displacement of millions of others internally and externally.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 collapsed following renewed violence in the capital, Juba, in July 2016. Under the September 2018 peace agreement, opposition leader Riek Machar, together with four others, will be reinstated as vice president of South Sudan. -Xinhua

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