South Sudan: Army squeezes rebel forces as peace talks begin
South Sudan’s army captured a rebel headquarters in Lasu on Monday as fresh peace talks began in Ethiopia, which aim to bring the country’s four-year civil conflict to an end.
On Tuesday, the national army then retook control of Yei River State from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO), further weakening the rebel group’s position in the country.
Army adds pressure on rebels
Refugees who fled Lasu on Monday said that gunfire continued into the following day. At least 35 government soldiers and JEM militias were killed in the operation and the SPLM-IO claims that government troops destroyed the properties of civilians and raped women captured during the siege.
The rebel group says it pulled out of Lasu in order to “avoid more civilian casualties”.
On Tuesday, the national army retook control of Yei River State without any resistance from South Sudan’s fractured rebel group. There are no reports of fighting, casualties or human rights violations emerging from the military operations.
The double loss increases pressure on the SPLM-IO as negotiations restart in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
Negotiations in Ethiopia
This week marks the latest in a series of military victories for Salva Kiir’s government against rebel forces. The country’s main rebel group has splintered into competing factions and struggled to source arms supplies of late. However, the rebel factions all have one thing in common, according to independent South Sudan researcher, Alan Boswell.
“The government thinks it is winning the war,” he said regarding the latest peace talks in Ethiopia. “The opposition sees no reason to join a government that won’t concede any power. It’s very difficult to bridge those two positions.”
Peace talks have so far failed to reduce conflict between government troops and rebel forces in South Sudan. However, there’s hope in Addis Ababa that some kind of ceasefire could be signed – at least until the latest round of peace talks are completed.
Featured image: By Steve Evans – Flickr: South Sudan, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18246640