Rival forces in South Sudan clash again

First Vice President of South Sudan and former rebel leader Riek Machar (left) and President Salva Kiir during the formation of a 30-member Cabinet of the Transitional Government in Juba on April 29, 2016. PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • The clashes in oil-rich Unity State were the latest in recent weeks between forces allied to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to his deputy, veteran opposition leader Riek Machar. 

Fresh fighting erupted Friday between government and opposition forces in South Sudan just days after both sides pledged to uphold a ceasefire and try to save a teetering peace deal. 

The clashes in oil-rich Unity State were the latest in recent weeks between forces allied to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to his deputy, veteran opposition leader Riek Machar. 

The pair rule in a power-sharing government which was brokered in the aftermath of a civil war that left nearly 400,000 people dead before a peace agreement paused the bloodshed in 2018. 

But the ceasefire has been repeatedly violated and their forces remain largely on opposing sides of the battlefield, raising fears of a return to all-out war between the historic foes. 

The latest violence involved militia backed by the national army attacking a garrison for Machar's Sudan People's Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO), according to officials from both sides. 

In Juba, top military figures from Kiir and Machar's camps issued a joint appeal for calm. 

"We direct all forces to cease hostilities and uphold the cessation of hostilities agreement," said Lieutenant General Thoi Chany Reat, deputy chief of South Sudan People's Defence Forces. 

'Live in peace'

Addressing the same press briefing, SPLA-IO acting chief of staff Lieutenant General Gabriel Duop Lam said a high-level joint security meeting had been convened to de-escalate tensions. 

"The issue of insecurity... needs to be addressed urgently," Lam told reporters at the military headquarters. 

The violence comes just days after Kiir and Machar renewed their commitment to merge opposition fighters into the national army, a key tenet of the 2018 peace deal that has not been honoured. 

In a rare face-to-face meeting last Sunday, the two leaders agreed to move forward on the unification of their forces, and uphold a ceasefire that has been undermined by recent violence. 

Their declaration was seen as easing rising tensions between two men, whose past disagreements led the world's youngest nation into years of grisly conflict. 

The two men met again "briefly" over the unified command as well as recent fighting, including in Unity State, a presidential statement said Friday. 

"President Salva Kiir Mayardit emphasised that, all the confrontations should cease and the people in those affected areas should live in peace and coexist in harmony," it said. 

The so-called troika of the United States, Britain and Norway last month condemned attacks by Kiir's forces on opposition troops in Unity and Upper Nile states, warning that they risked a return to war. 

South Sudan achieved statehood 2011 after a decades-long struggle for independence from Sudan, but slipped into its own war two years later. 

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.