South Sudan clash
Displaced South Sudanese families are seen in a camp for internally displaced persons in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Tomping, Juba, South Sudan Beatrice Mategwa/UNMISS/ Handout via REUTERS

South Sudan's president Salva Kiir has declared a "unilateral ceasefire" and ordered government and rival forces to abide by it as clashes flared up again in the capital Juba on Monday (11 July). However, gunfire continued to be heard. The escalating fighting threatens to plunge the country into civil war.

Intense fighting between troops loyal to Kiir and Vice President Reik Machar is said to have left more than 200 people dead since 7 July. What began as a shootout between rival groups soon escalated into violence involving helicopters, heavy weapons and tanks.

Announcing the truce on behalf of the president, his spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told Reuters: "All commanders of [Kiir's] forces are directed to cease any hostility and abide by the order and control their forces. President Salva Kiir is determined to carry on his partnership with Riek Machar."

It is reported that the vice president too "reciprocated the ceasefire" and ordered his men to stop the fighting as of 5pm GMT. Machar, who was once the rebel leader returned to Juba after going into exile. He had agreed to end the two-year civil war on the condition that he be made the vice president of South Sudan.

The ceasefire announcement came after the UN urged both the leaders to control their men, and has imposed an immediate arms embargo on the country as Monday's fighting was said to be the heaviest since the present clashes began.

The US had also called for a cessation of hostilities. The State Department has said it would vacate some of its non-emergency staff from the embassy in Juba.

The Ugandan embassy is sheltering 30 of its nationals in Juba who sought protection as fighting intensified in the region, a local NBS TV report said.

South Sudan clash
Wreckage of a Sudan People's Liberation Movement armoured personnel carrier (APC) is seen abandoned after it was destroyed in renewed fighting in Juba, South Sudan, on 11 July, 2016 REUTERS/Stringer