JUBA – Deadly fighting erupted Saturday between rival factions of South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar’s SPLA-IO, his military spokesman said in a statement.
The clashes erupted after Machar’s rivals declared this week they had deposed him as the head of the party and its military forces.
Armed forces led by a rival general in the party, Simon Gatwech Dual, launched an attack on Machar’s men, who had “repulsed the aggressors,” the spokesman Col. Lam Paul Gabriel said.
Machar’s SPLA-IO forces killed two major generals and more than 27 “enemy” soldiers, while they lost three men, he added.
The fighting could not be independently confirmed and there was no immediate response from Gatwech Dual’s side.
Leaders of the military wing of Machar’s SPLM/A-IO said Wednesday they had deposed the rebel-turned-politician for failing to represent their interests.
The fighting could put pressure on the fragile 2018 power-sharing deal between Machar and his old foe President Salva Kiir.
Machar’s allies on Friday dismissed his ouster as a “failed coup,” insisting he was still in full control of the party.
Machar himself this week accused “peace spoilers” of engineering his removal.
The 68-year-old, a wily leader who survived years of bush warfare, attempts on his life and stretches in exile, served as vice president alongside Kiir in the first government post-independence from Sudan in 2011.
The pair had a falling out, though, and Machar was fired two years later. Troops loyal to each man turned their guns on each other, and South Sudan descended into five years of civil war.
Source: Voice of America