S.Sudan army readies camps for pullout from capital

Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers parade during independence day celebrations in Juba in July, 2015 (AFP Photo/Charles Lomodong)

Juba (AFP) - South Sudan's army said Friday it was preparing bases outside the capital ahead of a pullout from Juba as part of a peace deal to end a 21-month civil war.

"The bases are being prepared outside Juba, as per the peace agreement, ahead of the army moving there in the days ahead," army information chief, Brigadier General Malak Ayuen, said Friday, although adding the sites currently have "no water and no shelter."

At least eight sites, in all directions from the capital, had been scouted ahead of a redeployment of troops to within a 25-kilometre (15-mile) radius of the city.

The army and rebels have repeatedly traded blame, accusing each other of breaking an internationally-brokered August 29 ceasefire deal, the eighth such agreement to have been signed since civil war broke out in December 2013.

Despite the fighting, both sides say the political deal remains in place.

"The fighting is still going on, they (the rebels) are still attacking our positions, and the ceasefire violations are still going on," Ayuen said, adding that clashes had now spread to southern regions, in the states of Western and Central Equatoria.

All foreign forces embroiled in the war -- mostly Ugandan troops backing Kiir -- must leave by October 10.

There have been conflicting reports about when -- or if -- they will leave.

South Sudan army spokesman Philip Aguer said they will begin pulling out next week, but Ugandan army spokesman Paddy Ankunda said troops had received "no instructions" to leave.

Facing the threat of international sanctions, President Salva Kiir signed the deal but annexed a list of reservations that he said would have to be addressed for the deal to take hold in the world's newest nation.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited Kiir and his arch-rival, rebel leader Riek Machar, to New York for meetings next week. Vice-President James Wani Igga has gone in Kiir's place.

South Sudan descended into bloodshed in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar, who he had sacked as his deputy six months previously, of planning a coup.

The violence has left tens of thousands of people dead and the impoverished country split along ethnic lines.

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