Fighting between rival forces in South Sudan is reported to have flared anew on March 19 in the key city of Malakal, in Upper Nile State. Malakal has been a main focus of the warfare between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), South Sudan’s official army, and forces loyal to ousted vice president Reik Machar.
Malakal is located approximately 400 miles north of Juba, South Sudan’s capital city, and is close to the borders of both Ethiopia and the Republic of Sudan. Upper Nile State is the source of much of the oil in South Sudan, the nation’s main source of revenue.
Fighting in Malakal has been fierce on several occasions since the split of the army’s forces on December 16 between those remaining with the SPLA and those joining rebel groups, especially Machar’s fighting forces.
The result of the violence has left Malakal in ruins and, according to United Nations reports, deserted with the exception of soldiers of the two armies which have repeatedly traded control of the city.
Col. Philip Aguer, spokesman for the SPLA, said that South Sudan’s army took full control of the city by 4:30 p.m. local time, according to the Sudan Tribune.
The rival factions have repeatedly accused one another of violating the cease fire that was signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 23 by asserting control of Malakal. The UN reports that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of non-combatants have been murdered in the city including numerous women and children.
The most recent rebel control began on March 3 when Machar’s troops overtook the city. All Africa News Service reported that on March 4 Machar visited Malakal to assess the situation and allegedly reassure citizens that the area was secure in an apparent effort to encourage people to return to the city.
Now it is the SPLA forces that are urging citizens to return to the city with its resumption of control, according to the Sudan Tribune.