Fresh fighting between rival factions of South Sudan’s Vice-President Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) erupted on Saturday in the Upper Nile region, an army official said.
Lam Paul Gabriel, SPLA-IO spokesperson, said the deadly fighting erupted after Machar’s rivals declared on Aug. 4 they had deposed him as the head of the party and its military forces.
Gabriel said the armed forces loyal to Simon Gatwech, Machar’s former military chief of staff turned rival, later launched an attack on Machar’s soldiers in Megenis, area in Upper Nile region on Saturday but Machar’s backers foiled it.
He said Machar’s SPLA-IO forces lost two-foot soldiers while the attackers also lost two “enemy” men, adding that four soldiers including dozens of unconfirmed scores were wounded.
Meanwhile, Gatwech’s side in a statement alleged that their faction had killed Machar’s 28 soldiers and arrested 32 others.
However, Machar’s spokesman denied the death claims
Gatwech’s commanders said on Aug. 4 they had deposed Machar from being the party and army leader of the SPLA-IO.
But Machar’s allies on Aug. 5 termed his removal as a failed coup and maintained that he was still in full control of the party.
Analysts say the latest fighting may jeopardize the already fragile 2018 power-sharing deal between Machar and President Salva Kiir.
South Sudan descended into conflict in December 2013, following a political dispute between Kiir and his deputy Machar that caused a split within the army leaving soldiers loyal to the respective leader to fight.
A peace deal signed in 2015 collapsed in the aftermath of renewed violence in July 2016.
The revitalized peace deal signed in 2018 under pressure from regional leaders and the international community remains the only hope to durable peace in the youngest nation, following years of violence that killed tens of thousands and displaced millions both internally and externally. Enditem