Is South Sudan on the verge of another civil war?

Former vice president Riek Machar threatens to march on capital 'and end this drama'

Study cites the case of fighters in war-torn South Sudan
(Image credit: SAMIR BOL/AFP/Getty Images)

Fears are growing that South Sudan's fragile peace plan, agreed in 2015 after two years of civil war, could be unravelling.

On Tuesday, President Salva Kiir, from the Dinka ethnic group, fired six ministers allied to his long-time rival Riek Machar, who is from the Nuer group and currently in hiding.

Machar, the former vice president whose sacking by Kiir in 2013 helped trigger the civil war, has threatened to march with his supporters to the capital, Juba, "and end this drama" if a foreign protection force is not deployed.

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An AFP report, carried in the MailOnline, says Tuesday's dismissals come days after Lam Akol, a minister representing another opposition grouping, resigned and declared the peace deal dead.

The peace agreement signed by both sides last year provided for a unity government, but the ceasefire that followed has broken down several times.

Reuters quotes a UN estimate that around 60,000 people have fled the outbreak of fighting between Kiir and Machar supporters in recent weeks, on top of the hundreds of thousands already forced to flee in two years of ethnically charged violence.

"On July 7, a checkpoint shootout between the rival sides ended in the deaths of five soldiers who were loyal to the president. The next day, gunfire erupted at the presidential palace as Mr Kiir and Mr Machar were meeting inside," wrote Jacey Fortin for the New York Times. Within three days, the two sides "fell back to their old war footing and took up arms once again".

The fighting is not confined to the capital. Al Jazeera's Hiba Morgan, reporting from Aweil, says there is evidence of armed groups in Wau, near the border with Sudan, "looting villages, murdering civilians, and forcing young men and boys to join them".

Millions of South Sudanese made homeless, hungry or both from this fresh eruption of violence are in desperate need of more assistance, says the UN's humanitarian chief.

Visiting the town of Aweil earlier this week, Stephen O'Brien warned the humanitarian situation "has the danger of getting worse before it can get better".

Fighting flares up in South Sudan as violence leaves scores dead

11 July

South Sudan is heading back towards civil war after fighting broke out between rival factions in the nation's capital, Juba. At least 272 people were killed in the fighting, a health ministry source told Reuters.

The clashes began on Friday outside the presidential compound, where president Salva Kiir was meeting the former rebel leader and current vice president, Riek Machar. Shooting reportedly broke out between Kiir's and Machar's bodyguards.

The renewed conflict has "echoes of the days before the civil war began", according to the BBC World Service's Africa Editor, Mary Harper. "Huge distrust remains between Mr Kiir and Mr Machar and between their forces," she says. "The leaders may even be struggling to control their own troops."

Soldiers loyal to Machar have claimed that the vice president's residence was attacked by the president Kiir's troops. But Kiir's information minister, Michael Makuei, says the reports were "dishonest".

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says the "senseless violence is unacceptable" and has the potential of "reversing the progress made so far in the peace process".

The UN Security Council has used an emergency session to call on the factions to end the violence before it escalates into full-scale conflict. In a unanimous statement, the council expressed "particular shock and outrage" over attacks on UN peacekeeping mission sites in Juba.

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