The United Nations has dispatched troops to Tonj East in the north-central state of Warrap in South Sudan to prevent further violence in the area following the bloody clashes between the army and gunmen.
The death toll from clashes between South Sudan security forces and armed civilians following a botched disarmament exercise has reached 127 according to authorities.
Among the dead are 82 civilians and 45 soldiers, army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said in a statement.
In a briefing to reporters in New York on Wednesday, Stephan Dujarric, UN Spokesman said that a patrol from the UN Peacekeeping Mission arrived on Tuesday evening in Tonj to assess the situation.
He said the U.N. team is engaging with local authorities and community leaders to prevent further violence and help with reconciliation efforts. The UN patrol will also visit Romich, a village in Tonj East that was directly impacted by the violence, to assess the security situation there.
Clashes erupted on Sunday when soldiers of the South Sudan People’s Defence Force tried to disarm civilians in the town of Tonj as part of a recent peace agreement, according to James Mabior, the town’s councillor.
Some civilians refused to hand over their guns at a market, with a number of bystanders joining the fight that ensued, Mabior said.
The fighting quickly spread to nearby villages, with armed civilians attacking an army base in the nearby town of Romic on Monday morning, Koang said.
The disarmament of civilians is part of a peace agreement signed between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar in February after many months of negotiations.
Kiir and Machar agreed to form a government of national unity in which both hold key leadership positions.
So far, a partial unity government has been formed and state governors have been appointed but parliament has yet to be reconstituted.