Security officials from South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s government allegedly attacked and detained 16 members of rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar’s publicity team Tuesday. The publicity team was in Juba in advance of Machar’s return to South Sudan’s capital on April 18, when he is set to assume the office of vice president again in a unity government with Kiir as part of a fledgling peace deal.
Tuesday’s violence is only the latest round of renewed fighting in South Sudan. The U.S. State Department issued a statement Monday condemning recent attacks on rebels in the northwest of the country by Kiir’s forces, the Sudan’s People Liberation Army. “There is no military solution to the conflicts in South Sudan,” it said. “We call on all parties to fulfill their commitments to implement the provisions of the peace agreement in full.”
Last August’s agreement between Kiir and Machar to end the civil war that began in December 2013 came only after heavy pressure from U.S. President Barack Obama, as Richard Gowan explained in his column shortly after the deal was signed. “Kiir did all he could to avoid signing the agreement,” Gowan noted. At the time, Kiir backed out of a signing ceremony and only gave in after Washington threatened him with United Nations sanctions.