Barely three months after the formation of the unity government, fighting has erupted in Juba, leaving scores of soldiers dead and fears are growing of a return to war.
On Sunday (July 10, 2016), it was reported that war had returned to South Sudan’s capital, Juba a few months after the government and the main opposition signed an agreement to establish a unity government and put to an end the war that had affected the country for over two years.
Until April 27, First Vice President Riek Machar was residing in his Ethiopian base after disagreeing with President Salva Kiir in July 2013. Between these dates, the country was marred by violence, leaving thousands dead and many more injured. Homes were destroyed, and citizens had to seek refuge in camps. The April agreement promised to bring peace and unity among people of South Sudan.
But events that have been happening since last Thursday are soiling the peace pact signed between the two leaders.
Frustrated by the new war, the United Nations Secretary-General called on the government to stop the hostilities immediately and bring their respective forces to order and withdraw their bases.
“I am deeply frustrated that despite commitments by South Sudan’s leaders, fighting has resumed,” said Ban Ki-moon adding that this fighting is “senseless and unacceptable.”
Machar’s loyal forces said that Kiir’s troops attacked their bases in Juba. But the information minister Michael Makuei Lueth denied the information saying the reports of war were “dishonest”.
The UN mission whose local base was caught up in the cross-fire gave shelter to more than 25,000 people in its compound amidst the renewed fighting in Juba.
Mr Ban asked the leadership to immediately take action to regain control of the security matter to prevent wide-spread of the violence and guarantee safety among all civilians, United Nations and other personnel. He urged the two leaders to commit genuinely to the full implementation of the peace agreement.
Cautioning President Kiir and the Vice President Machar, the UN official noted that the violence “has the potential of reversing the progress made so far in the peace process,” local Radio Miraya reported.
The fighting began outside the presidential compound on the eve of the country’s fifth independence anniversary, as the president and the vice president was meeting, local reports said.
According to William Gatjiath Deng, spokesman for Machar's military faction, the fighting occurred near the state house and in army barracks.
“In the morning we collected and counted 35 (dead) from the SPLM-IO (Machar's faction) and 80 people from the government forces,” he was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency on Saturday. Local reports indicate that the numbers could be as high as over 200 people.
South Sudan became independent on July 9, 2011, after many years of war, which claimed the lives of about 1.5 million people and more than four million were displaced.
On the day that was meant to bring people together for celebrations, citizens remained indoors for the better part of Saturday as they feared for their lives. Except for a few people and the soldiers, the streets remained empty.
"You don't see a lot of people on the streets here. UN peacekeepers believe it's too unsafe. The people of Juba are in a very, very unstable situation," Al Jazeera's John Hendren, reporting from Juba, said.
In the wake of the violence, fears of instability and unrest are looming, as people worry that the 2015 peace deal might not be working as they hoped.
Image credit: Reuters
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