Nine people were killed in renewed clashes between rival forces in South Sudan. The volatile situation in the capital, Juba, has led to the exodus of 60,000 people to neighbouring countries, according to a United Nations report. This comes as an influential member of the opposition SPLM-DC and Minister of Agriculture, Lam Akol, resigned his appointment and called on President Salva Kiir to leave power.
At least nine people were killed over the weekend in renewed clashes between troops loyal to Kiir and troops loyal to Machar, a spokesman for Machar said on Monday.
Government military spokesman, Lul Ruai Koang, downplayed the weekend clashes, saying there was “small fighting” between the SPLA and Machar’s forces.
“We engaged them and they tried to put up some resistance, but at the end we overcame them and they fled to different locations,” Koang said.
Koang accused the SPLA-IO of shelling government positions in Nasir town in Upper Nile state, while the opposition claimed it was the SPLA that shelled their positions.
The United States said over the weekend it had received “disturbing reports” of renewed violence in the south of the country and the United Nations is considering imposing an arms embargo.
“Since the agreement is dead and there is no free political space in Juba, the only sensible way to oppose this regime so as to restore genuine peace… is to organise outside Juba,” he said.
“One side has decided to abrogate (the peace deal),” Akol told a news conference in the capital of neighboring Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, on Monday.
“The entire unity government is fraying apart at the edges. Akol’s departure adds another blow to a very delicate situation,” Robin Sanders, a former US diplomat who has worked on issues related to South Sudan, told Al Jazeera.
Sanders said she was worried Akol’s departure could push South Sudan “towards a crisis”.
“If he joins forces with Machar, then you really are on the road to a bigger fight and a bigger crisis. It is a worrying sign.”
The UN said about 52,000 people have gone to Uganda, 7,000 to Sudan and 1,000 to Kenya, the agency said.
In all, almost 900,000 South Sudanese have left their country since civil war broke out in December 2013, the U.N. said. The country had about 11 million residents at the time.
A peace deal reached a year ago has been repeatedly threatened by fighting.
People fleeing South Sudan’s latest violence, which erupted in the capital, Juba, have reported being turned back by armed groups on the road to Uganda.
“At the beginning, we did hear reports that the government was very reluctant to have people leave the country and was hindering people from doing so. Now that seems to be less of the case,” U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told reporters, adding that other armed groups are involved.
“But definitely it’s very difficult to leave without some cash to pay whoever is asking for it at the checkpoints,” she said.
About 85 percent of the people arriving in Uganda are women and children, the U.N. said, adding that some children are severely malnourished.
Cholera is a growing threat for those who have stayed in South Sudan. As of the end of July, 586 cholera cases including 21 deaths had been reported across the country, said Fadela Chaib, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization. Most have been in the area around Juba.
In addition, many of the 250,000 refugees inside South Sudan from other countries have been affected by the latest fighting, the U.N. said.