South Sudan’s rebels start official release of PoWs

main rebel group, the Sudan People’ Liberation Army-in opposition (SPLA-IO), on Saturday began official release of Prisoners of War (PoWs) captured during four years of violence.

The SPLA-IO deputy spokesman Col. Lam Gabriel said their leader and First Vice Riek Machar ordered the release of PoWs being held by the group.

“The and commander in chief of the SPLM/A -IO Riek Machar has officially directed the SPLA-IO forces release all PoWs and detainees as mentioned in the Cessation of Hostilities (COH) agreement effective on 09/01/2018,” Gabriel said in a statement.

He disclosed that the SPLA-IO Sector Seven in Western Bar El Ghazal region through its command structure on Jan. 11 handed over three detainees the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

This came after the 14-day deadline agreed in the CoH by the warring parties in Dec. 21, 2017, in Addis Ababa on the release of PoWs being held on both sides elapsed on Jan. 7 amid intermittent fighting between the groups in violation of the cease-fire.

The agreement also called on the warring parties surrender children enlisted or recruited in their ranks the UNICEF in the stipulated period.

However, the government denies any more PoWs and detainees following the Presidential directive since 2017 that saw some of the detainees released.

The rebel spokesman also revealed that government troops attacked them on Friday in another round of fresh clashes in Pakuah between Malakal and Tonga with the intention to capture Tonga but the army denies attacking the rebel .

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after dispute between Salva Kiir and his deputy turned rebel chief Machar led to split within the SPLA, leaving soldiers to fight alongside ethnic lines.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict was weakened after outbreak of renewed fighting in July 2016 caused the SPLA-in opposition rebel leader Machar to flee the capital. (Xinhua/NAN)