South Sudanese capital calm after president declares ceasefire

South Sudan’s capital Juba was calm Tuesday after President Salva Kiir declared a unilateral ceasefire after fighting between the army and troops loyal to former rebel leader Riek Machar killed hundreds.

Machar, who was sworn in as Kiir's deputy in April, told local radio station Eye Radio he had also ordered his forces to observe a ceasefire. A Machar spokesman said he did not know where the vice president was and was unable to comment.

“I haven’t heard any reports of new fighting,” said Jeremiah Young, an aid worker with World Vision.

People were beginning to venture outside, though “we are not even close to coming back to normality,” Young said by telephone.

“It is very quiet,” said Gregor Fischer, a German photographer.

Other witnesses reported shops opening.

In Jebel neighbourhood, where the army reportedly attacked Machar's positions, most of the shops have been burned or looted, said Mawien Deng Atak, an army soldier patrolling there.

Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said the army was respecting the ceasefire, adding that civilians who had fled the fighting were returning home.

The presidency had on Sunday put the death toll at 270 since Friday, but the figure was now believed to be higher.

The fatalities include two UN peacekeepers, who the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said were Chinese, and eight people killed in or near UN camps for displaced people.

Thousands of people fled the fighting to churches, schools, aid agency compounds, suburbs or towards neighbouring Uganda. Young said that an estimated 30,000 of the displaced people had remained in Juba.

The fighting was also reported to have spread to other towns.

Theresa Jumbili, a resident of Wau in the north-west, said she had fled gunfire to a cathedral. "There were gunshots in the early morning, but it has stopped now," she said.

Clashes erupted between army and the rebels on Thursday, followed by fighting on Friday near the presidential palace.

The fresh outbreak of violence dealt a blow to hopes of peace after Kiir and Machar signed a peace agreement in August 2015 and formed a national unity government in April.

A power struggle between the two escalated into an armed conflict in December 2013, killing tens of thousands and displacing more than 2 million people.

Last update: Tue, 12/07/2016 - 11:23
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