At least 30 killed in clashes between military factions in South Sudan

Deadly clashes between SPLM-IO factions threaten 2018 peace deal

AFP/ASHRAF SHAZLY  -   At least 30 killed in clashes between military factions in South Sudan

At least 30 military personnel, including two generals, were killed in clashes between the army of South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar's party and a dissident faction led by Simon Gatwech, who unilaterally proclaimed himself the new head of the formation on Thursday.

Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) army spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel told Efe that soldiers loyal to "defector general" Gatwech attacked Machar's contingent in the border area with Sudan, resulting in the deaths of a total of 30 of the dissident leader's military personnel.

Gabriel noted that forces loyal to Machar managed to drive the attacking fighters out of the area and also destroyed a large amount of heavy weapons and military equipment used in the attack.

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"We are aware that Simon Gatwech and several of his generals have entered Sudanese territory," Gabriel added about a possible escape of the dissident general to the neighbouring country.

In this vein, he called on the Sudanese government to arrest armed elements loyal to Gatwech.

However, William Gatjiath, the spokesman for Gatwesh's faction, in a brief statement accused Machar's forces of initiating the attacks.

The clashes came after Gatwech's faction ousted Machar from the leadership of his party, the SPLM-IO, of which he proclaimed himself the new leader.

In a statement, he also asked the South Sudanese government to appoint him "as first vice-president", a position currently held by Machar within the executive, a decision that the latter considered null and void.

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Gatwech alleged that "Riek Machar does not represent a large section of the citizens of South Sudan" and accused him of "blackmail" in order to be part of the transitional government formed in 2020 following the signing of a peace agreement between the armed opposition led by Machar and the Executive of President Salva Kiir.

These deadly clashes between SPLM-IO factions threaten the 2018 peace agreement, which stipulated, among other things, reforming the military sector, as well as forming a joint force to become the national army.

However, so far the troops have not yet graduated, even though they completed their training more than a year ago, due to lack of resources.