The United Nations says the quest to end the conflict in South Sudan is getting complicated by the splintering of rebel forces.
The head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) David Shearer said the emergence of new armed group in the southern Equatoria region over the past year had jeopardized the search for peace in the world’s youngest nation.
“We cannot have peace when armed groups are fighting and what we are seeing in Equatoria is the breakup into smaller groups,” he told reporters Friday in the capital, Juba.
Conflict on the country broke out in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his then-deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against his government. Machar denied the allegations but then went on to mobilize a rebel force to fight the government.
The fighting has claimed tens of thousands of lives, with fighters loyal to President Salva Kiir and the now main rebel leader Riek Machar both accused of atrocities.
A peace deal signed in 2015 allowing the formation of a unity government with Machar as President Kiir’s first deputy was thrown out in the wind just weeks later as fighters allied to both leaders clashed in the capital Juba.
The U.N. and the international community have been pressuring the players in the war to engage in dialogue as a means of ending the fighting. With Machar holed up in South Sudan however, negotiations haven’t gained any major progress.
The war has displaced millions, prompting the U.N. to rank South Sudan as Africa’s biggest refugee crisis and third worldwide after Syria and Afghanistan.