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"SPLA will return to borders if Sudan army attacks continue"

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March 30, 2013 (JUBA) – The southern army (SPLA) will be forced to return to border areas where it withdrew its troops recently, if the Sudanese army continues attacking its territory, in violation of the security agreement both countries reached.

“We did not withdraw our forces from the border areas with Sudan because somebody had forced us to move. No. We were simply responding to the directives from our government so that the agreement which the two countries had signed in Addis Ababa could be implemented,” Angelo Jokoch, the SPLA Jamus division commander said Saturday.

The army he stressed will not wait for directives from it high command to deploy at its borders with Sudan to prevent any possible attacks on southern territories.

“We will also not accept any claim and threats. They [Sudan] know us very well”, added the army official, in a statement read on the state-owned SSTV.

Sudan and South Sudan, early this month, agreed on the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of forces to their side within two weeks, to allow for establishment of a safe demilitarized border zone.

Both countries, in the presence of the African Union mediators, also committed themselves to the deployment of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) and the activation of all security related mechanisms, effective from 10 March.

In September last year, the two Sudans signed a Cooperation Agreement, which covered oil and citizenship rights as well as security issues, among others. Since then, however, implementation of the deal has stalled over Khartoum’s insistence that Juba sever all ties with Sudanese rebel groups - an allegation South Sudan denies.

The SPLA commander insisted it’s the army’s constitutional mandate to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the new nation against foreign aggression.

Jokoch accused the Sudanese army (SAF), allegedly with all their allied forces of carrying out an attack on 26 March, killing three innocent civilians in Kiir Adem area of South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal state. Another attack, he said, took place on 27 March, during which a police officer was killed, while the enemies reportedly lost seven of its men.

The “provoking” attack, he said, came in the wake of a meeting organised between senior army officers, Northern Bahr el Ghazal state authorities and the Reizigat Arab nomads in Kiir Adem, soon after the SPLA withdrew its troops from the area.

“We know what their intentions are. They are claiming that we have withdrawn our forces from the Sudanese territory and are pushing Sudan Armed Forces and their police to take over these areas. I want to assure our people that the SPLA did not withdraw from these areas because they are Sudanese territory,” he said.

The military officer accused Sudan of illegally continuing to remain in the areas it was supposed to have completed full and unconditional withdrawal plan of its forces by 24 March, as per the agreed time-frame.

“Sudan continues to illegally remain in areas it was supposed to withdraw by March 24th and the international community, especially the United Nations is keeping quiet. The African Union is silent. They have not even talked about the attack which Sudan had carried out in areas where we have withdrawn our troops,” he said.

South Sudan officials have accused the Sudanese government of failing to stop armed groups, north of the border from attacking its territory and have reported the incidents to the UN Interim Security Forces in Abyei (UNISFA).

“We have already launched our complaints to UNISFA, which is the coordinating committee which can receive any complaints of course on our part there is such case where you withdraw, you expect some incidents but it is unfortunate that the Republic of Sudan is not controlling its side of the story”, Information minister, Barnaba Marial told journalists in Juba on Friday.

(ST).