Thousands flee to Ethiopia amidst reported fighting in Pagak
Thousands of civilians are reported to be fleeing towards Ethiopia, amidst reported fighting in Pagak, a rebel stronghold.
David Shearer, the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), told a news conference in Juba on Wednesday that according to information from International Organization of Immigration (IOM), about 5,000 people from the area North of Pagak have been registered before they pass to Ethiopia as refugees.
He said due to the growing insecurity in the area, at least 25 aid workers have been forced to relocate from Pagak and the surrounding areas.
“These south Sudanese citizens are fleeing as SPLA troops advance towards Pagak,” he said. Pagak is a stronghold of the opposition under Dr. Riek Machar.
Shearer said there had been an active military engagement over the past week, with heavy fighting around Mathiang North of Pagak on July 2nd.
Contacted for comments, Brigadier General PSC Lul Ruai, SPLA Spokesman denied there is any fighting in Pagak. “The SPLA forces are not anywhere near Pagak, leave alone being involved in active fighting with opposition forces in the reported localities,” he told Juba Monitor on phone. “If there are ongoing clashes in Pagak, then the SPLA is not involved and we are not aware of who is fighting who in Pagak.”
Ruai said the concerned civil authorities including UN agencies, local and international NGOs operating in the area should say what is making civilians flee to Ethiopia. “As far as SPLA is concerned, we are not aware about what is happening in Pagak,” he said.
The army spokesman said SPLA is still at its defensive positions at Mangok and Guelguok and had not moved an inch in compliance with President Kiir’s declaration of unilateral ceasefire to give conducive environment for the National Dialogue.
Shearer further said according to reports, government forces are now approaching the town of Maiwut, 25 kilometers north-west of Pagak. “I am gravely concerned by this ongoing situation,” he said.
“And while it is not clear which side begun the fighting, the military advance by the SPLA is not in the spirit of the unilateral ceasefire declared by the government in May of this year,” said shearer.
He asked both sides to observe President Kiir’s
independence message of peace and cease hostilities to allow civilians to return to their areas.