A new wave of clashes have broken out between South Sudanese fighters and government troops, ending a short-lived ceasefire deal which had aimed at ending five months of brutal civil war.

Monday’s clashes dashed any hope for peace as fighting raged on in the oil-producing state of the Upper Nile, Defence Minister Kuol Manyang said.

Manyang said government forces had been told to only fire in self-defence noting that the fighters, known as the White Army, due to the mixture of wood and ash they wear as war-paint, was mainly made up of civilians.

The minister said that rebel leader Riek Machar was not in complete “control of his forces” and that the White Army was unaware of Friday’s agreement.

"These are irregular forces, the White Army is armed civilians, and they do not know about the cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed," he said.

Meanwhile, both sides have accused each other breaking the ceasefire deal signed by President Salva Kiir and Machar.

These are irregular forces, the White Army is armed civilians, and they do not know about the cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed.

Kuol Manyang, South Sudan Defence Minister 

The violence has taken on ethnic undertones, with rebels loyal to Machar's Nuer tribe and soldiers from Kiir's ethnic group, the Dinka, engaging in revenge killings.

The war, which began last December after the government foiled what it called a coup by Machar, has been marked by widespread human rights abuses and claimed thousands of lives, with more than 1.2 million people forced to flee their homes.

Grave humanitarian consequences

The African Union Peace and Security Council stressed the need to end fighting in a meeting on Monday.

In a statement issued by the United Nations Refugee Agency on Sunday, the council expressed concern over the violence witnessed in the region during the past three months, including clashes between government forces and armed movements.

The statement added that the council underscored the need for warring parties to take the necessary measures to end fighting and to fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law.

The statement highlighted the continued support for the “Doha Document” on peace in Darfur and called for renewed efforts to implement steps.

The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur issued by the United Nations Mission in Darfur details a comprehensive framework for peace in the region.

The council appealed to member states and international partners to provide the resources needed to achieve a de-escalation of the conflict which has resulted in grave humanitarian consequences including the displacement of millions of people. 

Source: Agencies