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January 03, 2014

US Withdraws More Embassy Personnel from South Sudan

The United States has withdrawn more personnel from the U.S. embassy in Juba and continues to recommend that U.S. citizens leave South Sudan immediately due to the deteriorating security situation in the world's newest nation.

"We are taking this step out of an abundance of caution to ensure the safety and security of our diplomatic personnel," the U.S. Department of State said in a statement.

U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Susan Page will remain in Juba and will maintain "constant communication" with South Sudanese officials, the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and her foreign counterparts, the statement says.

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi will provide consular services for U.S. citizens in South Sudan while the embassy in Juba is closed. The statement did not say how long that would be.

Even as the United States draws down its embassy staffing levels in Juba, it has announced "an additional $49.8 million in assistance to help address the humanitarian crisis" in South Sudan, where U.N. officials have said the numbers of displaced persons could leap to 400,000 if a peace deal is not reached at talks in Ethiopia.

The U.S. Special Envoy Booth for Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, is in Ethiopia supporting the negotiation efforts between delegates for President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar, the two main protagonists in the fighting that broke out in Juba on Dec. 15 and rapidly spread across the country.

Rebel fighters loyal to Machar control the two oil-producing states of Unity and Upper Nile and this week recaptured Bor after a bitter battle with government forces.

The talks in Addis Ababa, which are being led by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), got under way Friday, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said,

A U.S. Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) based in Nairobi continues to lead U.S. efforts to support humanitarian operations and meet the needs of the people of South Sudan, the statement said.

The United Nations estimates that at least 1,000 people have died in nearly three weeks of violence in South Sudan, which rapidly took on ethnic overtones, with reports of people being targeted and killed for belonging to Kiir's Dinka tribe or Machar's Nuer tribe.