An uneasy cease-fire prevailed in South Sudan’s capital on Tuesday as aid workers struggled to reach thousands affected by heavy clashes of the last few days. New fighting was reported in the countryside while the government and opposition traded accusations over who was at fault for the violence.
Tuesday was calm in Juba, but Gregor Mueller of the International Committee of the Red Cross said that the situation is far from resolved.
"The fighting of the last three days has displaced thousands of people who are on the move or have sought shelter in different sites around town, mainly in churches and humanitarian compounds, and are in need of shelter, food, water, medical care," he told VOA by phone.
Mueller said the ICRC and the South Sudan Red Cross are distributing food and medical supplies while also helping bury dead bodies which accumulated in the streets.
President Salva Kiir declared a cease-fire Monday government forces pushed opposition fighters from their base in the Jebel region of the city. Opposition leader Riek Machar soon followed suit with a ceasefire order of his own.
Now there is a blame game over who started the clashes, which have left hundreds dead.
South Sudan's ambassador to Kenya Chol Ajongo says the rebels started it.
He also slammed a peace agreement which Kiir and Machar signed last August under intense international pressure.
He said the government did not want to agree to allow the former opposition soldiers to return to the capital.
"We accepted it and this is what we got. This is what we predicted," said Chol Ajongo.
However, the opposition accused the government of being at fault for the renewed conflict.
The fighting erupted in Juba last Thursday. The government says opposition fighters killed five soldiers at a checkpoint.
In the following days, the government used helicopters and tanks against the opposition, which carried only light weapons and whose troop strength in Juba was limited by terms of the peace deal.
During the fighting, the government shelled a U.N. compound protecting thousands of Nuer civilians, the same ethnicity as opposition leader Machar.
The U.N.'s special representative for prevention of genocide said Tuesday that there were reports of civilians targeted for their ethnicity.
The U.N. has called for more troops from the region to be sent to bolster the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, which is meant to protect civilians. Government forces have blocked the peacekeepers from patrolling the city.
But Ambassador Ajongo said no more foreign peacekeepers should be sent to South Sudan.