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Calm returns to Juba, South Sudan after two days of gun battles - witness

By Reuters | July 9th 2016
First Vice President Riek Machar (L) delivers a speech to journalists next to South Sudan President Salva Kiir (C) and Vice President James Wani Igga (R) prior to the shooting outside the presidential palace in Juba on July 8, 2016. Gunfire erupted near the presidential palace in South Sudan's capital Juba on July 8, further straining a shaky ceasefire the day after five soldiers were killed. PHOTO: AFP

JUBA: South Sudan's capital Juba was quiet but tense on Saturday, a Reuters witness and an aid worker said, after two days of gunbattles between rival troops that have raised fears for a fragile peace process.

Africa's newest nation is emerging from two years of civil war. On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the latest violence was an illustration of lack of commitment to the peace process and urged the country's leaders to end the fighting, discipline military leaders and work together to implement the peace deal.

After shootouts on Thursday and Friday, a Reuters witness said on Saturday there were still road blocks on some Juba streets, heavy movement of military vehicles and that most businesses were shuttered. He said he had seen the bodies of at least three soldiers.

At least five soldiers were killed on Thursday.

"It seems as though things have certainly calmed from what they were last night, however the situation is still very, very tense," Jeremiah Young, an aid worker with World Vision, said.

South Sudan was plunged into war in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir sacked his vice president Riek Machar.

The conflict was largely fought along ethnic lines with Kiir mostly drawing support from his Dinka tribe while Machar was backed by his Nuer tribe.

A peace agreement in August ended the war although Kiir and Machar are yet to integrate their forces, a key part of the agreement.

Thursday and Friday's gunfights were the first major outbreak of violence in Juba since Machar returned to the capital in April after his re-appointment as vice president.

Young said there was a likelihood the security situation could "deteriorate very quickly due to the tensions within Juba and the surrounding areas."

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