South Sudan’s cease-fire broken by both sides, say monitors

January 16, 2018 GMT

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Sixteen people have been killed, including three children, since South Sudan’s cease-fire started less than a month ago, say monitors.

Both government and opposition forces have committed multiple violations since the cease-fire began on Dec. 24, according to four separate investigations released Tuesday by the Cease-fire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, an independent body.

The deaths of the 15 who were civilians are “tragic,” said the organization.

“Despite commitments we’re still observing hostilities on the ground,” communications officer for the monitoring body, Ruth Feeney, told The Associated Press.

The reports also say that child soldiers continue to be recruited and sexual violence remains prevalent.

South Sudan’s opposition is charged with spearheading an attack on the town of Koch, just hours after the cease-fire was implemented. For its part, government forces are accused of looting civilian property and initiating clashes in and around the town of Mundri in the Equatoria region.

Both sides deny the reports’ accuracy and blame each other for the violations.

“We were forced to defend ourselves in Koch and all other places during these attacks,” opposition spokesman, Lam Paul Gabriel told AP.

The army said it is unaware of any violations or recent clashes near that area.

South Sudan’s civil war has entered its fifth year, with tens of thousands killed, pockets of the country plunged into famine and millions of people displaced.

Renewed peace talks are scheduled in early February in neighboring Ethiopia, but the monitors remain skeptical.

“It’s likely that there will be more reports of this nature in the future,” said Feeney, who added that the cease-fire violations are “endemic and so widespread.”