Forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar and a renegade group clashed in South Sudan on Saturday, but the two sides reported different claims, each claiming to have killed scores of soldiers from the other side.
The most recent battles, which endanger the country’s delicate peace process, took place in Magenis, in the Upper Nile area, between forces loyal to Machar and those supporting First Lieutenant General Simon Gatwech Dual.
According to Lam Paul Gabriel, a spokesman for Machar’s SPLM/A-IO party, the party’s fighters reacted “in self-defense” and killed two major generals and over 27 soldiers. He said that three troops were killed during the attack by those fighting on the SPLM/A-IO side.
The other side denied suffering severe losses and launching an offensive.
According to a Dual official, 28 soldiers were killed on the enemy side and four on their side during the skirmishes.
Because communication networks in the Upper Nile region are limited, Reuters was unable to independently verify the claimed killings.
The clashes erupted after rival military leaders of the SPLM/A-IO announced on Wednesday that Machar had been ousted as head of his party and its armed forces. The military leaders said the party’s chief of staff, Dual, had been nominated interim party leader from the military wing.
Machar accused rival military chiefs on Thursday of attempting to stymie the country’s peace process.
South Sudan obtained independence from Sudan in 2011, but war erupted two years later in the capital when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and Machar battled.
This caused the massacre of hundreds of civilians from Machar’s Nuer ethnic group in Juba, as well as a spiral of ethnic violence and retaliation killings.
The civil war, which ended with a peace agreement in 2018, killed 400,000 people and caused Africa’s worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.