NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The United States on Thursday condemned a recent outbreak of violence around an oil-rich town in South Sudan, as experts predicted a return to mass violence in the coming weeks.
South Sudan has seen near civil war conditions since last December and violence has forced more than 1.7 million people from their homes and has raised concerns about the potential of famine.
Both rebel and government military commanders are preparing for major offensives when seasonal rains end, the International Crisis Group warned Thursday. Rains over the last several months have tamped down military battles.
"Renewed conflict is likely to be accompanied by widespread displacement, atrocity crimes and famine," the group said. Already some 100,000 people are living in U.N. camps around the country. Even more people have fled the country.
The U.S. statement called the fighting a "senseless man-made conflict" that violates already signed peace deals. The U.S. said that as the conflict persists the humanitarian crisis "continues to reach even more appalling levels."
Longstanding peace negotiations continue but have not made the major breakthroughs needed to establish a lasting peace.
South Sudan peacefully broke away from Sudan in 2011 to become the world's newest nation, but internal troubles broke out into the open last year, causing a split between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar.
A power-sharing deal between Kiir and Machar is unlikely to be agreed upon, Kiir told Al Jazeera in an interview released Thursday. He said if a peace deal is forged, the country will move next to new presidential elections.
The violence has lowered South Sudan's oil output and threatens to return the region to the long years of warfare it saw during the fighting between Sudan and rebels in what is now South Sudan.