A South Sudanese minister has defected to the rebels as a civil war continues to claim lives in the country. Lieutenant General Gabriel Duop Lam, the minister of labour, is the second high-level official to resign in the past few weeks.

"I reaffirm my full allegiance and commitment to the... wise leadership of HE Dr Riek Machar," Lam wrote in a resignation letter, according to Reuters.

Machar, South Sudan's former vice-president and now rebel leader, has been living in South Africa since he fled the country following deadly violence in the capital Juba in July 2016.

In an exclusive talk with IBTimes UK, he said he was ready "to go home". His wife, Angelina Teny also told IBTimes UK she believes her husband can contribute to achieve peace in the war-torn nation.

Government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth confirmed Lam's defection, which occurred just days after Lieutenant General Thomas Cirillo Swaka resigned after accusing the country's leadership of perpetrating ethnic-based violence in the war-torn country.

The government has denies the allegations.

The South Sudan conflict erupted in 2013 when President Salva Kiir, of the Dinka ethnic group, fired his deputy Machar, from the Nuer group.

Ethnic-related violence targeting Dinka and Nuer has killed an estimated 50,000 people, amid allegations of crimes against humanity committed by both sides, including rape, torture and the use of child soldiers.

The UN has warned the country was on the verge of a Rwanda-style genocide. Meanwhile, at least 1.5 million people have fled the country according to the UN refugee agency (UNCHR). The exodus has been deemed as "Africa's worst refugee crisis".

Those internally displaced are facing severe food shortages due to a man-made famine. Many fear hunger will deepen as the conflict has now spilled into the Equatorial region, considered one of South Sudan's breadbaskets.

The UN has now appealed for $1.6 bn (£1.2bn) to provide life-saving assistance and protection to 5.8 million people across the country.