Juba - South Sudan's army has retaken an eastern town
captured by rebels two weeks ago, a military spokesperson said on Monday, in a
conflict that has uprooted thousands of people and hampered government plans to
explore for oil.
Army spokesperson Philip Aguer said four soldiers and a dozen
rebels were killed during a brief battle on Sunday to recapture Boma town in
Jonglei state, where the government wants to search for oil with the help of
"The SPLA [army] restored order and control of Boma
yesterday. I was there myself," Aguer told Reuters.
But Peter Konyi Kubrin, a spokesperson for rebels also known
as the South Sudan Democratic Army, denied they had lost the town.
Since winning independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan
has been struggling to impose its authority across vast swathes of territory
awash with weapons after decades of civil war with Khartoum ended in a peace
deal in 2005.
Rebel leader David Yau Yau, a former theology student,
raised a rebellion in 2010 after failing to win a seat in local elections. He
accepted an amnesty in 2011 only to take up arms again a year later to end what
his group's manifesto calls corruption and the unfair dominance of the ruling
The United States and several European powers urged the
government to find a political solution to the conflict.
"We stress that the worsening situation in Jonglei
state requires a political and not a military solution," said a statement
by several Western embassies in the capital Juba.
The embassies said they were alarmed by the recent looting
of private homes and compounds of foreign aid groups in Pibor, another town in
Jonglei, which the army has blamed on state wildlife officers who defected to
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said their Pibor
hospital had been systematically destroyed recently, depriving around 100 000
people of access to healthcare.
Over 1 600 people have been killed in violence in Jonglei,
largely though inter-ethnic cattle raiding communities, since South Sudan
gained independence, the United Nations says.