In South Sudan, the government still holds Malakal, capital of Upper Niles State, after a three-day rebel attack. Although rebels had announced that they had taken the city today, it has since been confirmed that the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) is still in possession of Malakal.
Earlier, the government army stated that they had been pushed back to the airport, but were still partially in control of Malakal, and were not certain which way the conflict would go. Rebel spokesmen, however, had announced that the rebels were in complete control of Malakal and were pursuing the SPLA out of the city.
Eye-witnesses reported that Tuesday’s battle started around 7:30 a.m. and employed tanks, mortars, and artillery. Some internally displaced people in Malakal’s United Nations compound were struck and injured by stray bullets. Dozens were treated at the United Nations (UN) base hospital. Malakal was again abandoned by its citizens as the fighting took place. This is the second time major battles have taken place in the city.
Fighting also took place Tuesday at Mongalla, 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Juba. And in Unity State the rebels made statements that they are preparing to retake Bentiu, capital of that state. The rebels lost Bentiu to the government army January 10. The rebels have made statements that they will attack Bentiu within days.
Some 413,000 South Sudanese have become displaced since the fighting broke out December 15. 80 000 South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries.
Peace talks in Addis Abada have been making progress, according to government Information Minister Michael Makuei. “We are progressing well and probably tomorrow we will agree on the cessation of hostilities,” said Makuei Tuesday.
Peace talks are primarily focussed on dealing with the rebel demands for the release of 11 political prisoners held in Juba. Another important complaint by the rebels regards the presence of the Ugandan military in South Sudan. The Ugandan military has reportedly been participating on the government side in some battles as well as infrastructure protection work like guarding the airport and securing Ugandan citizens in South Sudan.
The U.S. and other international parties with an interest in South Sudan have called for President Kiir to release the political prisoners. However, the Kiir government has stated that it cannot release prisoners who have been charged without processing them legally. The legal process for the political prisoners has begun, according to the government.
The Ugandan parliament Tuesday endorsed the sending of Ugandan troops to South Sudan. The parliament had questioned the Ugandan governments sending of troops into South Sudan. The parliament questioned the constitutionality of such an act. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni defended his decision to send the troops on the grounds that the troops were needed urgently for an emergency protection and evacuation of Ugandans trapped in South Sudan’s conflict.
Japan announced Tuesday that it would send $25 million in aid to South Sudan. $20 million of this sum will be in answer to a UN appeal for economic assistance. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a 50-person delegation of Japanese businessmen, politicians, and other officials had arrived in Addis Abada, Ethiopia, on Monday at the end of Abe’s first African tour.
Abe also announced in Ethiopia several new development projects to be undertaken by the Japanese in Ethiopia and noted that Japan had already sent military engineers to the United Nations Mission In South Sudan.
By Day Blakely Donaldson