Rebel forces in South Sudan say there would be no ceasefire in the country unless the government released a group of jailed officials close to them.
Rebel spokesman Yohanis Musa Pauk said on Wednesday that the 11 inmates arrested in the capital Juba after the unrest erupted three weeks ago, should be freed in order to participate in the ongoing peace talks in the neighboring Ethiopia.
“Our colleagues must be released so that they come and participate,” Pauk said.
“You cannot go to negotiations while there are some people being detained. You need to release them so that they now have a positive role in the negotiations. We are just waiting for the release of our detainees, when they release them very soon we will sign the cessation of hostilities agreement,” he added.
The violence broke out on December 15, after South Sudanese President Salva Kiir accused former vice president Reik Machar of attempting to stage a coup against him.
The fighting has now turned into all-out war between government troops and mutinous army commanders backed by ethnic militia forces.
The United Nations says thousands of people have been killed in the clashes, which have forced more than 200,000 people to leave their homes or flee the country.
The aid agencies have renewed their warnings about the poor humanitarian situation in the world’s youngest nation, with Doctors Without Borders saying that people displaced by the conflict are at risk of epidemics.