28 Soldiers Die as Rival South Sudanese Factions Clash

South Sudanese forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar and a splinter group clashed on Saturday, with both sides claiming to have killed dozens of soldiers from the other side.

Conflicts between Machar’s forces and those backing the self-imposed leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLMA-IO), First Lieutenant Simon Gatwech Dual, occurred in Magenis in the Upper Nile region and threaten the fragile peace process.

Lam Paul Gabriel, the spokesman for Machar’s SPLM/A-IO party, said party forces reacted “in self-defence” and killed two major generals and 25 soldiers.

He said SPLM/A-IO soldiers on Dual’s side lost three soldiers in the attack. However, the other side denied incurring heavy losses and starting the offensive.

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Dual’s spokesperson claims that 28 soldiers were killed on the enemy’s side and four on their side during the clashes.

Conflicts broke out after rival members of the SPLM/A-IO announced on Wednesday that Machar had been ousted as party and military leader. Dual, the party’s chief of staff, was appointed interim leader.

In a statement Thursday, Machar claimed that the rival military leaders are trying to stymie the peace process in the country.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but was plunged into a fight with the government and the opposition two years later.

That sparked the massacre of hundreds of civilians in Juba from Machar’s Nuer ethnic group and a spiral of ethnic violence and revenge killings.

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The civil war, which ended with a peace deal in 2018, killed 400,000 people and triggered Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

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