KHARTOUM/NAIROBI, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- The South Sudanese government on Friday agreed to end hostilities against rebels, but warned that its forces would defend themselves if attacked.
"We have agreed in principle to a ceasefire to begin immediately, but our forces are prepared to defend themselves if attacked," the government said via Twitter.
At a meeting of East African leaders in Kenya, South Sudan agreed not to carry out a planned offensive to recapture Bentiu, the capital of oil-producing Unity state, which is controlled by troops loyal to Riek Machar, the former vice president who is accused by the government of starting the conflict.
No one attended the Nairobi meeting on behalf of Machar, who told the BBC that conditions for a truce were not yet in place.
Machar confirmed that two of his allies had been freed from custody but called for the other nine to be released too.
The release of the 11 politicians, accused of plotting a coup, has been a key rebel condition for any negotiations.
In the field, the military reported no immediate changes in the battle for control of the world's newest country.
Tensions within South Sudan, which gained independence after seceding from Sudan in July 2011, developed into an open conflict on Dec. 15 when President Salva Kiir's government said soldiers loyal to Machar, dismissed in July, launched an attempted coup.
South Sudanese army on Friday announced an end to fighting in Malakal, the capital city of Upper Nile State, after a great victory against the rebels.
"The fighting ended at 12:00 p.m. local time (GMT 0900)," Philip Aguer, South Sudanese army's spokesman, told Xinhua by phone.
"The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has achieved a great victory over the forces loyal to Machar. We are a hundred percent in control of Malakal town," he noted, declining to give the death toll of the clashes.
The escalating violence in South Sudan has displaced at least 121,600 people, and the actual number may be higher since aid agencies have very limited information about displacement outside the main population centers, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Friday.
According to the OCHA, around 63,000 of the displaced people have sought protection in the bases of the UN Peacekeeping mission UNMISS, mainly in Juba, Bor, Malakal, Bentiu and Pariang. In Juba, capital of South Sudan, alone, an estimated 25,000 people are displaced.
South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei on Friday called for urgent assistance to people affected by the ongoing fighting, which has caused a "real humanitarian disaster."
Makuei reiterated his government's commitment to the cessation of hostilities, but warned against exploiting it to terrorize and kill the citizens, Sudan's Ashrouq net reported.
"Our government is keen on peace, but we will not allow the rebels to kill the citizens of South Sudan," he noted.
Meanwhile, the minister admitted that his country's oil production has been affected by the violence, saying "the oil fields on the northern part of Upper Nile State are safe, while the fields in Unity State are partially closed due to the presence of rebels in those areas."
The United Nations said on Friday that the first batch of peacekeeping reinforcements, a 72-officer-strong Bangladeshi police unit that originally served in the UN mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo, had arrived at Juba.
They are the first of the 5,500 additional peacekeepers and police advisers requested by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and approved by the Security Council unanimously Tuesday.
The Bangladeshi police officers who were trained for crowd management and security will be deployed immediately to help manage the growing population of internally displaced persons, who are now seeking refuge at UN Compounds throughout South Sudan.
KHARTOUM, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese army on Friday announced the end of fighting in Malakal, the capital city of Upper Nile State, with a great victory against the forces loyal to former South Sudanese vice-president Riek Machar after four days of violent clashes.
"The fighting ended at 12:00 p.m. local time (GMT 0900)," Philip Aguer, South Sudanese army's spokesman, told Xinhua by phone.Full story
UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- A top UN official in South Sudan on Thursday called on the country's political leaders to " give peace a chance," and expressed hope for receiving the first peacekeeping reinforcement on the ground within the next 48 hours.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative, Hilde Johnson, said over 50,000 civilians have sought refuge at UN bases in the world's youngest country, adding that the nationhood painstakingly built over decades of conflict and strife was at stake.Full story