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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

South Sudanese rebels free eight abducted aid workers

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese rebels on Tuesday released eight aid workers of U.S.-based charity Samaritan’s Purse who were captured at Mayendit, about 680 km northeast of the capital.

The charity said all the eight kidnapped aid workers are now on their way to a safe location.

“Samaritan’s Purse is thankful to God for the safe release of our South Sudanese national staff, who had been detained by armed personnel in the Mayendit area of South Sudan. They were all released Tuesday afternoon local time,” it said in a statement released in Juba.

Samaritan’s Purse had been forced to evacuate most personnel from the country two weeks ago due to violence and called on all parties to stop hostilities and allow immediate full access to distribute emergency food supplies.

Mayendit is located where the UN in February declared famine leaving 100,000 people starving and one million on the brink of starvation.

The American evangelic group further revealed that their staff were released without paying any ransom. However, the rebels in South Sudan denied reports that their troops had abducted the eight aid workers.

“There was no ransom request and they are on the way to a safe location at this time. We are grateful for the World Food Program’s support in helping us relocate our staff,” it said. 

The rebels had dismissed statements by the South Sudanese army (SPLA) of allegedly detaining the workers of the American evangelical group after fighting broke out at the weekend.

SPLA-in opposition (SPLA-IO) spokesman William Gatjiath told Xinhua that it is untrue that the rebels abducted the eight aid workers in Mayendit as claimed by the government.

The UN also noted that 5.5 million people are in dire need of food assistance, amid complaints of obstruction of humanitarian agencies’ movement in the famine-stricken parts due to ongoing fighting in the oil-rich and yet impoverished country.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, following political dispute between president Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar resulting in killing of tens of thousands and displacement of more than two million.

However, renewed July fighting in 2016 threatened to tear apart the fragile 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict.

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EARLIER REPORTS:

South Sudan rebels want to negotiate with India over abducted oil workers

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese rebels on Monday revealed that they will only negotiate with the Indian government over the release of two Indian oil workers captured last week at Guelguk in the northern Upper Nile region.

South Sudan People’s Liberation Army- in Opposition (SPLA-IO) spokesman Colonel William Gatjiath who admitted holding the oil workers told Xinhua late Monday that they preferred negotiations with the Indian government.

“We need Indian government to come down and negotiate with us in our (Pagak) headquarters,” he said.

Pagak is located near the Ethiopian border and used to host high command meetings of the SPLA-IO led by rebel leader and former first vice president Riek Machar who has been exiled in South Africa after fleeing the renewed July clash in 2016.

Information Minister Michael Makuei earlier ruled out any negotiations with the SPLA-IO whom he accused of demanding 1 million U.S dollars in ransom for the abducted oil workers.

“The government of South Sudan will not pay anybody (SPLA-IO). This will encourage terrorism,” Makuei revealed on Monday, and instead demanded for unconditional release of the oil workers.

But it remains to be seen if the Indian government will give in to the rebel demands, after the South Sudanese Minister of Petroleum Ezekiel Gatkuoth having disclosed that the latter had left the Juba government to deal with the situation.

“The Indian government told us they are not going to get enter into this,” Gatkuoth said.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, following political dispute between president Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar resulting in killing of tens of thousands and displacement of more than two million.

However, renewed July fighting in 2016 threatened to tear apart the fragile 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict.

 

S. Sudan urges release of oil workers kidnapped by rebels

By Denis Elamu and Daniel Majack JUBA, (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese officials on Monday called for unconditional release of two Indian oil workers kidnapped by rebels last week at Guelguk, home to the Adar oil field in the northern Upper Nile region.

“The transitional unity government (TGoNU) calls for unconditional release of (two) Indian nationals. We will not pay 1 million U.S dollars demanded by the terrorists,” Minister of Information Michael Makuei told journalists in Juba.

According to the government, the abduction took place on March 8, contradicting the SPLA-in Opposition (SPLA-IO) account of March 9, when the two oil workers were captured after heavy fighting between rebels and government troops.

Makuei added that they were seeking the regional body Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which had helped broker the 2015 peace agreement to end conflict, to gazette SPLA-IO as terrorist group.

Meanwhile, Minister of Petroleum Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth disclosed that security at the various oil fields has been beefed up in the aftermath of the kidnapping.

“We are deploying the army (SPLA), national security services and police,” he said.

He added the Indian government told them it would not get involved in the incident and would instead leave it wholly to the South Sudanese government.

South Sudan has aimed to increase its oil production from below 130,000 barrels a day (bpd) to at least over 350,000 bpd.

The war-torn country is facing hyper inflation nearing 800 percent, and yet it relies 98 percent on oil export to finance its fiscal budget.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, following political dispute between president Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar resulting in killing of tens of thousands of people and displacement of more than 2 million.

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U.S. denies backing South Sudan rebels

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The U.S. government on Tuesday dismissed as “false and baseless” local media reports that it is giving support to South Sudanese rebels seeking to topple the current government.

The U.S. Embassy in South Sudan said in a statement that Washington does not provide training, equipment or any other type of support to opposition forces seeking to overthrow the government of South Sudan.

“Recent assertions in local media that the U.S. is providing such support are false, baseless and not in the interest of peace in South Sudan,” the statement said.

“The U.S. reiterates its long-held view that there is no military solution to the political crisis in South Sudan, and renews its call upon all parties to the conflict to end military operations immediately and comply with the permanent ceasefire in the peace agreement,” it added.

South Sudan has had frosty relations with the administration of former U.S. President Barrack Obama with Juba accusing Washington of plotting a regime change agenda in the conflict-hit East African nation.

The world’s newest country also survived a number of U.S.-led proposals at the UN Security Council calling for imposition of arms embargo and targeted sanctions on the country’s leaders.

In his address to parliament last month, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said his government is seeking to renew ties with the Trump administration.

South Sudan has been devastated by civil war that broke out in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. Machar denied the accusation but then mobilized a rebel force.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 led to the formation of a transitional unity government in April 2016 but was again devastated by fresh violence in July 2016.

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, with over 2 million displaced and another 4.6 million left severely food insecure, since December 2013.

             

 

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