Heavy fighting continues in Unity State as rival forces battle over oil fields

Addis Ababa/Juba, April 27, 2015 (SSNA) — Heavy fighting broke out on Monday between government and rebel forces in Unity State after government troops launched surprised attacks on rebels’ outposts in Guit County and Nhial-Diu Payam.

The new attacks came in the early hours of Monday as Juba is desperate to take back Unity State’s oil fields from rebel forces.

In a statement released to the media, the office of the Spokesman for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in Opposition (SPLA-IO) said government soldiers launched simultaneous assaults against the rebels, adding that the SPLA-IO acted in “self-defense” and put up a fierce fight against the invaders which resulted in a humiliating defeat of government forces.

The office of rebels’ Spokesman also said the SPLA-IO has no plan to attack government positions, warning that “Juba’s reckless behavior” in Unity State will soon be crushed.

Fighting over oil fields

Johnson Wal Hoth, an official of the SPLA-IO in Ethiopia told the South Sudan News Agency (SSNA) that Monday fighting between South Sudanese rival factions occurred because Juba and its foreign allies planned to regain control over Unity State’s oil fields.

“These latest attacks against our forces are designed by Juba and Kampala to retake oil fields from us and eventually resume oil production; we have been monitoring their activities since last month,” Johnson told the SSNA in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

“The SPLM/A-IO and the international community know it very well that Juba and Kampala are busy using South Sudan’s oil money to buy arms from "greedy governments,” he asserted.

Johnson repeatedly refused to name individual countries the rebels perceive “greedy.”

The SPLA-IO official has also confirmed that heavy fighting still continues in the oil-rich Unity State.

However, SPLA-Juba Spokesperson Philip Aguer has accused the SPLA-IO of attacking government’s outposts, claiming rebels are to blame for latest military confrontations in and around Bentiu.

China implicated

Meanwhile, Johnson further claimed that the governments of South Sudan and China are secretly working together for ways to gain control over oil fields, asserting that Beijing wants Juba to recapture oil fields militarily so that Chinese oil companies can resume their operations.

“In recent months, Beijing began acting like a military ally of Juba. We have received credible intelligence information which linked China to recent fighting in Unity State and it is all about oil,” Johnson disclosed.

“Remember, when we talk about Juba, we are also talking about Kampala,” he declared.

The SSNA cannot independently verify the allegations.

China is the biggest oil investor in South Sudan. The raging civil war has put Beijing in uncomfortable position, forcing it to send a UN mandated civilian protective force to the volatile young nation.

IGAD-mediated peace talks between South Sudan’s factions collapsed in early March after Kiir and Machar failed to strike a deal on power sharing, security arrangements, among others.

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