At least 300 killed in latest South Sudan violence: UN

South Sudan President Salva Kiir replaces his vice president and rival Riek Machar, a move that could potentially undermine last year's peace deal and reignite war in Africa's youngest nation.
Bullet holes are seen on a wall following fighting outside the Presidential State House in South Sudan's capital Juba, on July 14, 2016.
Bullet holes are seen on a wall following fighting outside the Presidential State House in South Sudan's capital Juba, on July 14, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (AFP) - At least 300 people have been killed in four days of intense gunbattles in the capital of South Sudan and 42,000 have fled the city, the UN said Friday (July 15).

The recent violence in Juba echoed the fighting that triggered the civil war and marks a fresh blow to last year's peace deal to end the bitter conflict that began when President Salva Kiir accused ex-rebel and now Vice President Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

"It's over 300 deaths since Aug 8," said World Health Organisation spokesman Tarik Jasarevic. The UN however said it did not have the number of injured.

The July 8-11 violence had left "42,000 internally displaced" in the world's youngest nation, said William Spindler, the spokesman for the UN refugee agency.

"The number of refugees in neigbouring countries is now 835,000," he said.

However, the International Organisation for Migration said many people were returning.

"Humanitarian access to affected people has improved dramatically since Monday. But this can only be sustained if the ceasefire holds", said John McCue, IOM South Sudan Head of Operations.

Machar's sacking as vice-president in 2013 set off a cycle of retaliatory killings that split the poverty-stricken, landlocked country along ethnic lines and drove more than two million out of their homes.

The conflict has been characterised by horrific rights abuses, including gang rapes, the wholesale burning of villages and cannibalism.

According to the UN, there were some 114,000 South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries before December 2013 but that figure has ballooned to 835,000 now.