Fifty two soldiers and rebels have been killed in recent fighting in South Sudan’s troubled state of Unity.
The fatalities came in recent clashes in South Sudan’s contested state of Unity, said a military official on Saturday, blaming the rebels in the country for breaching a peace agreement signed last month.
According to military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer, “The clashes, which started Monday and continued Friday, took place in Leer and Koch. The death toll of 52 was for fighting in Koch and not Leer, which government troops had to abandon under intense fire from the rebels.”
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his rival, former Vice President Riek Machar, had clinched a peace deal in August.
Meanwhile, Kiir has issued an order for an increase in the number of regional states, a move which could threaten a power-sharing deal between the government and rebels signed in August.
The presidential decree, broadcast on state radio, increases to 28 the current number of states, which 10.
Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said, “The government has ordered there to be 28 states.”
“This is about giving more power to the people through better service delivery.”
The presidential order must now be passed by the parliament before becoming a law.
The parliament, which is almost entirely in support of President Kiir, is expected to pass the order “within one month,” the spokesman said.
He also said the government in Juba remains committed to the peace deal with rebels.
However, critics say the new plan to divide the violence-country into more states would render the agreed power-sharing formula redundant.
In reaction to the presidential order, rebel leader Riek Machar in a statement strongly denounced the decision, saying that unilateral move “is a clear violation of the peace agreement,” which is based on 10 states.
Machar signed the agreement on August 17 while the South Sudanese president signed the peace deal about ten days later, on August 26, also producing a list of reservations he said would have to be addressed in order for the agreement to be finalized.
Deal was to end civil war
The power-sharing deal aimed to end more than 21 months of civil war in the world’s youngest nation.
Under the agreement, all fighting must stop immediately, child soldiers and prisoners of war must be released, and foreign forces must leave the country within 45 days.
A transitional government of national unity will also be formed within the next three months, with Machar regaining his previous post as the first vice president.
South Sudan plunged into chaos in December 2013, when fighting erupted outside the capital, Juba, between troops loyal to Kiir and defectors led by Machar.
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