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Why peace eludes South Sudan

About 300 people have reportedly died in renewed fighting between South Sudan’s rival factions in the capital Juba, with government forces using tanks and helicopters to fire in the direction of  opposition Machar’s headquarters.

Fighting erupted on Sunday (July 10) morning  between security forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to First Vice President, Riek Machar. There were conflicting statements as to what caused the latest upsurge of violence, just a day after another deadly clash on Friday at the presidential palace.

South Sudanese government said it is in full control of the security situation in the national capital, Juba, after deadly clashes with opposition forces in and around the capital.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan to become the youngest country in the world, on July 9, 2011, following a referendum that passed with 98.83% of the vote.

In December 2013, a political power struggle broke out between President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, as the president accused Mr. Machar and ten others of attempting a coup d’état.

President Salva Kiir is of the ethnic Dinka – the country’s largest group, while his deputy Riek Machar is from the second largest community, the Nuer.

Riek Machar denied the accusations, but he publicly criticised Mr Kiir for failing to tackle corruption. The war brought about massive killings along ethnic line and displacement of millions of people.

Under international pressure, the two sides signed a peace deal in August 2015 under which rebel leader Riek Machar will return as vice-president. Riek Machar was  finally sworn in as first vice-president in a new unity government in April 2016.

The peace deal has always been seen as fragile.

According to a report by Sidantribune on the recent spate of violence, Minister of information and broadcasting, Michael Makuei Lueth, told reporters in  Juba that the fighting was started by Machar’s forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO). He said the opposition forces attacked a check point where government forces have been stationed to “regulate traffic”, south of the capital near the camp of the SPLA-IO at Jebel Kujur area on Yei road.

The report also added that the chairperson of the African Union (AU), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma requested the South Sudanese leaders, “working with the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), chaired by H.E. Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana, to ensure scrupulous adherence to the transitional security arrangements”.

Unless a permanent solution is found to the conflict between the country’s main leaders there might be a total breakdown of law and a return to civil war.

–          Olalekan Olonilua for

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