JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — South Sudan’s military chief has died during a visit to Egypt and after a “short illness,” the government announced Friday.
Gen. James Ajongo Mawut had taken over the role a year ago after Paul Malong was fired and put under house arrest.
The death comes ahead of a new round of peace talks expected in May as a regional bloc seeks an end to the country’s five-year civil war.
Conflict analysts said the death will put pressure on South Sudan President Salva Kiir to make critical decisions regarding his fragile ruling coalition.
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Alan Boswell, a South Sudan analyst for Small Arms Survey, said Kiir has pushed out former allies in recent months as he “concentrates power in fewer and fewer hands.”
Multiple attempts to bring peace to South Sudan have failed. A cease-fire in December was violated within hours.
Fighting has intensified in recent weeks. On Thursday, government forces and opposition forces loyal to former military chief Malong clashed in the town of Luri about 12 miles (19 kilometers) outside the capital, Juba.
One opposition fighter was killed and about 15 government soldiers lay dead beside a “destroyed tank,” an opposition spokesman, Ajang Ajang Lino, told the AP.
Spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said the government was waiting for more information but blamed the opposition for ambushing a convoy carrying food and medical supplies to its troops.