London, Asharq Al-Awsat—South Sudan’s defense minister has denied claims that Juba received military support from Cairo and Khartoum, accusing the country’s rebel leader of seeking to create tensions with nearby countries.
Earlier this week, South Sudanese rebel spokesman Youhanis Musa Pouk accused Cairo of providing President Salva Kiir with advanced weapons and military equipment.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday, South Sudan’s Minister of Defense, Kuol Manyang Juuk, said that these claims were “absolutely wrong.”
“We have not requested military support from Egypt or any other country,” Juuk said, adding that Juba “would rather purchase the military equipment it needs with its own funds.”
He said the South Sudanese government had sought to purchase “personnel carriers” and other military equipment from Cairo and Khartoum, but both countries had refused.
Egypt has denied claims that it is taking sides in the almost six-month armed conflict in South Sudan between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat Egypt’s ambassador to South Sudan, Ayman Jamal, said that claims Cairo is providing Juba with weapons are wrong.
“Of course, this is not the first such statement from Riek Machar’s [rebel] movement,” Jamal said, referring to similar accusations made when Juuk visited Cairo two months ago.
“Egypt supports the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and our ambassador in Addis Ababa is in contact with the mediators and the warring sides,” he said, referring to Ethiopia’s mediation efforts in the conflict.
Jamal called on the South Sudanese government and rebels to adhere to the ceasefire agreement Kiir and Machar signed in May.
The ambassador denied claims that Egypt taking sides in the current crisis, adding that his government is “in contact with Machar’s group via our ambassador in Addis Ababa.”
According to Jamal, a senior South Sudanese rebel figure has been granted permission to visit Cairo to take part in talks with the Egyptian government, but the visit has been delayed.
Egypt has offered to mediate between South Sudan’s warring sides but has been informed that Kiir and Machar prefer IGAD mediation, which is currently ongoing.