April 14, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – A new report of conflict assessment on the war-torn South Sudan warns of intensification of fighting between warring parties as they race for control of more territories ahead of rainy season.
In a Tuesday report released by the Small Arms Survey’s Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA), it said there were indications that South Sudan army (SPLA) loyal to president Salva Kiir and opposition forces (SPLA-IO) loyal to the former vice-president, Riek Machar, were preparing for intensified violence in the next coming months.
“As was often the case during the second civil war, the end of the dry season (from April to June) should see an intensification of the current conflict as both sides seek to maximise the territory under their control before the rains begin,” partly reads the report.
HSBA says the SPLA-in-government wanted to make maximise the use of the dry season during which it can be able to transport its troops and heavy weaponry across the country when roads are still passable.
“SPLA sources say that if the army does not attack now, it risks missing a window of opportunity, and becoming entangled in rainy season skirmishes with the SPLA-IO,” the report revealed.
It however cited failed attempts by the government’s offensives to regain more territories from the opposition forces in the past two months in Unity and Upper Nile states.
The document also suggested potential divisions from within the two warring parties, warning of further splintering or switching of sides.
While the report mentioned unspecific internal political division within the rebel group in Upper Nile state, it said divisions within the government in Unity state was surfacing between the caretaker governor and a militia commander allied to the government.
“There is a campaign to remove Joseph Nguen Monytuel, the current governor, reportedly supported by Matthew Puljang, the head of the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) – a militia allied to the SPLA – and one of the most important military commanders in the state,” it says.
Governor Monytuel is the brother of Bapiny Monytuel, one of the most important SSLA commanders, and his appointment as governor following the dismissal of Taban Deng Gai in early 2013 was partly a means of ensuring that the SSLA stayed loyal to the government.
The assessment also painted a gloomy picture of further humanitarian catastrophe in case of intensified violence, particularly in the states of greater Upper Nile region.
Other two regions of Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria – home to Kiir and his deputy, James Wani Igga, respectively – are relatively peaceful as the 15-month-long war and its disastrous consequences have been successfully confined to the Upper Nile region – home of opposition leader Riek Machar.
A cessation of hostilities agreement which the two parties signed since 23 January last year has been violated and not holding.
East African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which has been mediating in vain between the two warring parties for the past 14 months, has expanded the mediation to include countries and international bodies beyond the African continent.
An IGAD-Plus new mechanism to include member states of the African Union (AU), troika (US, UK and Norway), European Union (EU), China and the United Nations is expected to resume the peace talks on unspecified date later this month to try to persuade the principal leaders to sign a final peace agreement and end the war.
UN and troika have threatened to impose targeted sanctions on individual leaders seen to be blocking the peace process. The sanctions would include travel ban, assets freeze and arms embargo.