South Sudan leaders order cease-fire as civil war fears grow

South Sudan’s president and vice president ordered their rival forces to cease hostilities on Monday after days of fighting threatened to plunge the nation back into civil war and bring further instability to an impoverished region of Africa. Fighting erupted four days ago in the capital, Juba, between loyalists of President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, the former rebel leader who became vice president under a deal to end a two-year civil war. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate arms embargo of South Sudan and additional sanctions for leaders blocking implementation of the peace agreement.

The renewed fighting is outrageous. … It is yet another grievous setback. It deepens the country’s suffering. It makes a mockery of commitments to peace.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Despite the unilateral calls for cessation, violence has continued in and around the U.N. headquarters in the capital. The U.S. State Department said it was implementing an “ordered departure” of its staff from South Sudan following heavy fighting. However not much is clear about the latest violence, including what the objective of either side has been and how much control Kiir and Machar have over their forces. Many fear a return to civil war, which broadly ran along ethnic lines, pitting Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against Machar, a Nuer. The conflict killed thousands of people and forced millions more from their homes. A new flare-up risks driving yet more people to refugee camps in neighboring nations and further destabilizing a region in the center of Africa already plagued by myriad woes.