A city essential to oil production in South Sudan has become divided between the army and rebel forces amid fresh fighting in the African nation.
A representative from the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the city of Malakal in Upper Nile state is divided between rebel fighters loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar and SPLA forces.
SPLA troops are attempting to force the rebels out of the city and gun battles are ongoing. The government said it lost contact with troops in Malakal, making it difficult to know who is in control.
The fighting in Malakal has impacted oil production in the the region. Reuters is reporting oil production is down to 170,000 barrels a day, a third less than normal.
However, technical problems not directly related to today’s fighting may account for the reduction. The conflict has made transportation of equipment and supplies difficult and the insecurity across the country has made operations challenging.
Fresh clashes in the oil-producing regions of South Sudan have emphasized concerns over the security of petroleum facilities and the stability of the supply. South Sudan relies on oil exports as an important revenue source providing vital funds to the young nation.
This latest incident in the conflict violates the terms of a ceasefire negotiated between the government and rebel groups last month. International organizations are pushing for both sides to return to the negotiation table as talks continue in neighbouring Ethiopia.