Sudan Tribune

(JUBA) – South Sudanese army (SPLA) denied having fought with the opposition forces of the SPLA-IO in Morobo county of Central Equatoria state, but admitted they fought with armed local youth in the area.

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South Sudanese SPLA soldiers are pictured in Pageri in Eastern Equatoria state on August 20, 2015 (Photo AFP/Samir Bol)

The SPLA spokesperson, Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang, said reports by the armed opposition that fighting took place and they captured Morobo last week were not true.

“Those were the youths who have disagreed on social issues and start the fight there are between two to three-four youths and you know whenever two-three people fight and then it breaks into mass fighting others will just join it without knowing the motive,” Brigadier General Koang told Sudan Tribune over phone interview.

He blamed the spokesman for the opposition leader, Riek Machar, for allegedly “politicizing” the conflict between the civilian armed local youth and the government’s forces in Morobo county.

“What I know is that it was mass fighting youths, it was not a political agenda but it was being politicized by James Gatdet who has been fanning flames of war from Nairobi,” claimed the SPLA spokesperson, who insisted the SPLA forces are in full control of Morobo and neighboring villages.

Brig. Koang denied that Morobo once fell under the control of the opposition or the local youth. This comes four days after he said his office did not receive any information about the situation in Morobo.

“SPLA is in full control of Morobo and it has not fallen into opposition fighters. They have no presence around that area and social disagreements are everywhere and it is good that fighting did not involve any weapons,” he said.

Earlier, opposition leader’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune that their forces captured Morobo last week. He did not however confirm whether their fighters have withdrawn from the town.

However, area residents who fled to neighboring Uganda over the weekend said they saw opposition forces in Morobo town. Eye witnesses said there are currently no civilians in Morobo because the area has been occupied by rebels.

In recent weeks, aid agencies and local leaders have reported clashes between government soldiers and forces loyal to former First Vice President, Machar, in several places, including Lainya in Yei River counties of the former Central Equatoria state.

Similar clashes between government and SPLA-IO forces were reported last week near Bentiu and Rubkotna, in Unity state, forcing nearly 30 humanitarian aid workers to withdraw from the areas of Nhialdiu, Jazeera, and Boaw.