Juba, July 12 (IANS) South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Monday evening ordered a ceasefire after days of heavy fighting between his government troops and forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar in the capital Juba.
President Kiir directed all commanders to cease all hostilities, control their forces and protect civilians, Information Minister Michael Makuei said in a televised speech on the state broadcaster, SSTV.
The ceasefire order took effect from 6 p.m. local time and that any member of the Machar-led forces who surrender must be protected as well, Makuei said, Xinhua reported.
“All the regular forces that were deployed because of whatever, they need to go back to their respective units, any soldier or any member of the regular forces that will be found loitering about with his rifle without reporting to his unit will be arrested and immediate action will be taken,” Makuei cited Kiir as saying.
He added President Kiir had expressed his commitment to the implementation of the August 2015 peace deal signed by him and Machar to end more than two years of civil war.
Heavy fighting between the rival factions erupted again on Monday. Witnesses said that heavy artillery shelling and mortars were heard in parts of Juba.
It followed deadly clashes on Friday and Sunday in the capital city.
The Health Ministry said at least 271 people were killed in Friday’s clashes, while the number of casualties in fighting since Sunday is not yet known.
President Kiir’s remarks came after the UN Security Council called for both sides to end fighting.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Monday deplored the continued fighting in Juba and severe conditions it had imposed on civilians.
“In the last 24 hours, 67 people have been injured in or around the (UN) Protection of Civilian sites, eight of whom have died,” UNMISS said.
Gunfire was reported in areas close to UNMISS compounds in Jebel and Tomping during the days of fighting.
“UNMISS compounds are caught directly in the fighting and continue to sustain impacts from small arms and heavy weapons fire,” UNMISS said, condemning the deliberate targeting of UN premises and its personnel as a serious violation of international law.
The UN mission said more than 7,000 people had sought protection in its compounds. UN peacekeepers have been protecting the UN compounds and Protection of Civilian sites, which house internally displaced people.
The violence raised fears that the war-torn country could descend into civil war again.
President Kiir and former rebel leader Machar have fought a civil war which broke out in December 2013 and left tens of thousands of people dead.
The peace deal signed by the two men last August under UN pressure led to the formation of a national government in April with Machar returning to his old post.