Friday, 16 May 2014 06:52

Renewed fighting endangers millions in South Sudan

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A cease-fire inked days ago between South Sudan's warring leaders is falling apart, dimming hopes for a quick peace that is widely seen as needed to ensure that millions of civilians have access to basic humanitarian aid.

President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar agreed at a meeting last Friday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to end a brutal five-month civil war that has seen thousands killed and more than a million people displaced.

The agreement was nearly identical to a previous cease-fire signed in January, which collapsed in days.

New fighting broke out in South Sudan on Sunday, less than 48 hours after the country's president and the rebel leader agreed to a cease-fire that the U.S. secretary of state and U.N. secretary-general both worked to forge. Both sides have blamed the other for violating the deal.

Clashes between government and rebels have continued, mainly around the contested town of Bentiu, a strategic gateway to oil-fields in the north. On Thursday, battles broke out in the north in oil-producing Upper Nile State.

A South Sudanese official is asking the United States and the United Nations not to slap warring parties in the country's conflict with sanctions for violating a peace deal without verification from independent monitors.

South Sudan Information Minister Michael Lueth said Thursday that independent monitors have to be deployed to verify who among the warring factions is violating the deal.

South Sudan's war began in December when disputes between Mr. Kiir and his sacked former vice president Machar turned violent. The fighting began to pit soldiers of Kiir's Dinka ethnicity against Nuer fighters loyal to Machar. The conflict turned brutal and heavy in towns and cities around the country, forcing more than a million people into the bush or refugee camps.

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