JUBA – Reuters
Heavy fighting erupted again in South Sudan’s capital on July 11 a day after the U.N. Security Council told rivals President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar to rein in their forces and end days of violence that have left scores dead.
A Reuters witness saw two helicopters overhead firing apparently in the direction of Machar’s political and military headquarters. Residents reported tanks on the street. A U.N. official said heavy gunfire had erupted around U.N. bases again.
The capital has been mired in fighting almost every day since July 7 when troops loyal to Kiir and soldiers backing former rebel leader Machar first clashed, raising fears of a slide back to a full-blown conflict after a two-year civil war.
It was not immediately clear who was leading the fighting or if either side was gaining the upper hand. The violence has raised concerns that Kiir and Machar, longtime political and military rivals, may not have full control of their forces.
There has been no official death toll but at least five soldiers died on July 7 and a Health Ministry source said 272 people, including 33 civilians, were killed on July 8. After a brief lull on July 9, the July 10 fighting appeared even more fierce.
“We urge an end to these hostilities and hope they [political leaders] will return back to taking up all the action points of the peace agreement,” Shantal Persaud, spokeswoman for the U.N. mission UNMISS, told Reuters by telephone.
She said gunfire had erupted on July 11 around the U.N. headquarters in the Jebel area of Juba and also around a base near the airport. U.N. bases were hit by small arms and heavy weapons on July 10. One U.N. Chinese peacekeeper was killed.
UNMISS said it was “outraged” by renewed violence in the world’s newest nation, which marked five years of independence from Sudan last week. South Sudan’s people remain mired in poverty. Oil production, the nation’s mainstay, has plummeted.
The U.N. Security Council, after an emergency meeting, told the two leaders to “do their utmost to control their respective forces, urgently end the fighting and prevent the spread of violence” and commit themselves to their peace deal.
Attacks on civilians, U.N. personnel and U.N. premises might amount to war crimes that would need investigation, it said.