Officials on Tuesday said that at least 26 people were killed in a fresh fighting between local groups in western South Sudan just as the country’s president and vice president called for an end to rising inter-communal violence.
More than 150 people have been killed since last week in separate conflicts that have pitted armed youths from Warrap State against rivals from the neighbouring Lakes and Western Bar El Ghazal states, and Abyei, an administrative area that is jointly run by South Sudan and Sudan.
The conflicts do not appear to be directly connected but are all linked to the control of land and natural resources, and one activist said he suspected there were political motivations behind the violence.
South Sudan has been formally at peace since a 2018 deal that ended a five-year conflict responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, but localised violence between rival communities flares frequently.
The latest clashes occurred on Monday when armed youths from Warrap State attacked and burnt a police station and market in Western Bar el Ghazal State, the state’s acting governor Arkenjelo Anyar Anyar told Reuters.
He said eight security officers and 10 civilians from his state were killed.
William Wol, the information minister in Warrap, said eight people from his state were also killed. He blamed the fighting on a dispute over fertile land used for grazing and farming.
Edmund Yakani, the executive director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, an activist group, said he was surprised to see local groups armed with such heavy weaponry and believed some political leaders were encouraging the violence to delay elections.
“Politicians who are in power are getting so scared that if they go to the polling station their chances of a return to power is limited,” he said.
President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar, whose respective forces battled each other during the 2013-2018 civil war, met to call for “an end to sub-national violence in parts of the country”, according to a post by the government on social media platform X.