A fresh bout of clashes is taking place in the capital of South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, Malakal, after rebels allied with a local militia began attacking government positions on Friday evening, regional mediators said.
The fighting in the oil-producing region comes after sustained conflict over the last three weeks in neighboring Unity state, where South Sudan’s military has been on a “full-scale” offensive, according to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD.
“The IGAD Mediation is deeply frustrated by the spread of violence to Upper Nile and strongly condemns this serious violation of the cessation of hostilities” by rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar and allied forces, it said in an e-mailed statement on Saturday.
Three phone calls to Lony T. Ngundeng, a spokesman for the rebel forces, weren’t answered on Saturday. A phone call to South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth wasn’t answered and calls to army spokesman Philip Aguer didn’t connect.
Clashes have occurred sporadically in three states of South Sudan since a power-struggle within the ruling party turned violent in December 2013. The latest fighting largely involved ethnic Nuer rebels allied with fighters from the Shilluk community, who backed government forces at the outset of conflict.
A truce agreed in early 2014 has failed to stem the violence, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than two million, according to the United Nations. IGAD peace talks haven’t resumed since a failure to achieve a power-sharing deal in March.
South Sudan has sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil reserves after Nigeria and Angola, according to BP Plc data. Before the fighting broke out, China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. pumped most of the nation’s oil.