At least 150 soldiers from South Sudan’s rival factions were killed in gunbattles in the capital Juba, a military spokesman for the opposition said on Saturday, amid fears for a fragile peace process in a country still reeling from a two-year war.
Gunfire erupted on Friday evening near the state house where President Salva Kiir and vice president Riek Machar, former rivals, were meeting for talks and later escalated in several parts of the city.
Both men said they did not know what had triggered the latest fighting between their factions and called for calm.
What happened, none of us knows, this is an interruption to the good process which we have initiated.
“We are meeting as we said to resolve whatever dispute that might have happened these days and so that we move forward not to be bogged down in the implementation of the agreement but it has happened. Now that it has happened there is nothing to be done about it but we have to continue finding a solution to it,” South Sudan’s president said.
“What happened, none of us knows, this is an interruption to the good process which we have initiated. We want to continue this process of dialogue amongst ourselves, resolving issues so that the country comes out of the conflict,” vice president Riek Machar added.
Reports say President Kiir has appointed Sudan’s interior minister Lt. Gen. Lado Gore to probe the Friday incident.
Experts have warned that the five-year-old nation risks sliding back into conflict unless the two sides move more swiftly to implement the peace pact, including ensuring the swift re-integration or demobilisation of rival combatants.