South Sudan rebels are on the move to capture the capital, Juba, according to the Government military.
The military spokesperson Col Philip Aguer told Associated Press that the rebels are forcibly recruiting civilians to march on the capital.
“Juba, that is their intention,” he said. “They are trying to march to Juba. The (South Sudanese military) will return them to where they came from.”
However, AP couldn’t possibly verify the colonel’s argument.
This comes after United Nations peacekeeping mission called on South Sudan to ensure crucial efforts to end the violence as it starts a new year and the two parties gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for peace talks.
Cessation of hostilities, opening humanitarian corridors, the issue of political prisoners, and protection of civilians form the main agenda of the talks.
The UN urges the both sides to make efforts in ending the violence which has left more than 190,000 people displaced and many killed.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Hilde Johnson, says the country is at a crossroads. “But it can still be saved from further major escalations of violence. It is up to the leaders of this country and the two parties,” she added.
Rebels currently hold Bor, the capital of the key oil-producing state of Jonglei that is seeing some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict.
Aguer says the rebels are now arming reluctant civilians as they focus on their next target: Juba.
On Wednesday, President Salva Kiir declared a state of emergency in the states of Jonglei and Unity, where rebels also control the capital.
South Sudan fighting has exposed ethnic rivalry between the country’s two largest ethnic groups, the Dinka of Kiir and the Nuer of Machar.