Fierce fighting erupts between Machar party’s feuding outfits

Monday, August 9th, 2021 00:00 |
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (L) converses with opposition leader Riek Machar in Juba, capital of South Sudan. (Xinhua/Denis Elamu)

Juba, Sunday

Deadly fighting has erupted between rival factions of South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar’s SPLA-IO, his military spokesman said in a statement.

The clashes erupted on Saturday after Machar’s rivals declared this week they had deposed him as the head of the party and its military forces.

Armed forces led by a rival general in the party, Simon Gatwech Dual, had launched an attack on Machar’s men, who had “repulsed the aggressors”, spokesman Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel said.

Machar’s SPLA-IO forces had killed two major generals and at least 27 “enemy” soldiers, while they had lost three men, he added.

The fighting could not be independently confirmed and there was no immediate response from Gatwech Dual’s side.

Leaders of the military wing of Machar’s SPLM/A-IO said on Wednesday they had deposed the rebel-turned-politician for failing to represent their interests.

The fighting could put pressure on the fragile 2018 power-sharing deal between Machar and his old foe President Salva Kiir.

Dismissed attempt

Machar’s allies on Friday dismissed the attempt to remove him as a “failed coup”, insisting he was still in full control of the party.

Machar himself this week accused “peace spoilers” of engineering his removal.

The 68-year-old, a wily leader who survived years of bush warfare, attempts on his life and stretches in exile, served as vice president alongside Kiir in the first government after independence from Sudan in 2011.

But the pair fell out and Machar was sacked two years later. Troops loyal to each man turned their guns on each other, and South Sudan descended into five years of civil war.

Instability feared

With the army still divided and some fighting groups refusing to sign the peace deal, the latest split in Machar’s movement could undermine stability, political analysts said.

The world’s youngest nation faces economic disaster and its worst hunger crisis since independence, with tens of thousands of people enduring famine-like conditions.

Already, there are calls for a peaceful public uprising to topple the current regime and end the chronic political and economic crisis.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but descended into fighting two years later when forces loyal to Kiir and Machar clashed in the capital.

That sparked the massacre of hundreds of civilians in Juba from Machar’s Nuer ethnic group and a spiral of brutal ethnic violence and revenge killings.  - Xinhua

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