South Sudan fighting kills 300 as fragile peace looks set to shatter
The fighting broke out on Thursday evening as South Sudan prepared to celebrate its fifth anniversary of independence. By Friday, Juba was engulfed in full-blown urban warfare. At least 239 soldiers and 33 civilians have been killed, according to estimates by medical sources.
President Kiir appeared alongside Machar, who is now first vice president as part of a peace deal, to condemn the fighting. The reasons behind the flare up are not yet known.
Machar said on Sunday that helicopter gunships and tanks had attacked his home twice. On Monday, fighting was still raging.
At least two helicopter gunships could be seen flying over Machar’s house on Monday and witnesses said they saw tanks roaming the streets, according to Reuters.
“In the last two hours, we went through heavy bombardments by President Kiir’s helicopters,” Machar wrote on Twitter. “This tells that our partner is not interested in peace.”
Kiir offered no immediate comment. The country’s information minister, Michael Makuei, said on Sunday that the situation was under control.
Civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013 following a power struggle between Machar, an ethnic Nuer, and Kiir, from the dominant Dinka group. Fighting in the conflict has mostly followed ethnic lines.
About 1.7 million South Sudanese people are internally displaced and more than 710,000 have fled across the border to neighbouring countries, according to UN estimates.