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South Sudan Peace Talks Set as Fighting Continues

  • VOA News

Grang Demebia (l), the son of late Sudanese politician John Garang, who is in the group supporting ousted Vice President Riek Machar, as Grang Demebiar arrives with unidentified delegates in Addis Ababa, Jan. 2, 2014.

Grang Demebia (l), the son of late Sudanese politician John Garang, who is in the group supporting ousted Vice President Riek Machar, as Grang Demebiar arrives with unidentified delegates in Addis Ababa, Jan. 2, 2014.

South Sudan's army continues to battle rebel forces, even as negotiators from the warring sides came together for talks aimed at ending the violence that has pushed the world's newest country toward civil war.

Representatives of President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar gathered in Ethiopia's capital to discuss ways of ending the escalating unrest.

A VOA reporter in Addis Ababa says the start time for talks has slipped several times. She says negotiators may meet face-to-face on Friday or even later in the week.

Reporter Marthe Van Der Wolf says that Machar's team has been tight-lipped about its priorities.

"They are not very open. They are barely speaking to the media. And it also seems that both delegations have been told to limit their statements to the media, as it could obstruct the peace process," said Van Der Wolf.

The East African bloc known as IGAD (the Intergovernmental Authority on Development) is brokering the talks, hoping to end violence that has left more than 1,000 people dead.

South Sudan's army chief of staff James Mai says troops are moving on the rebel-held state capital of Bor, the scene of heavy fighting this week.

"We are advancing to Bor because these people want to come to Juba [the capital] and we have had some fight, and our forces are moving toward Bor, so any time we will be in Bor. Of course, we don't yet have a cease-fire and we don't want them to come and get us somewhere here, so we have to go to them," said Mai.

The United Nations refugee agency said Thursday that more than 200,000 people have been displaced within South Sudan since political and ethnic violence erupted in mid-December.

U.N. spokesman Daniel MacIsaac says that more than 10,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries.

Bloodshed in the world's newest country erupted when renegade soldiers attacked a South Sudanese army headquarters on December 15. President Kiir accused former vice president Machar of a coup attempt.

Machar said in a Wednesday VOA interview that President Kiir is responsible for much of the unrest. He said peace cannot be achieved under the president's leadership.

Kiir declared a state of emergency Wednesday in Jonglei state, as well as the oil-producing Unity state, which has been one of the other main sites of the fighting.

Witnesses say some of the violence is ethnically motivated, with supporters of Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe, and supporters of Machar, from the Nuer tribe, targeting each other.
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