News / Africa

Fears Grow of Civil War in South Sudan

People gather at a makeshift camp at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Juba Dec. 22, 2013.
People gather at a makeshift camp at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Juba Dec. 22, 2013.
Reuters
South Sudan's government said on Sunday rebels had seized the capital of a key oil-producing region and fears grew of all-out ethnic civil war in the world's newest country.
 
The U.N. announced it was trying to rush more peacekeeping forces to landlocked, impoverished South Sudan as foreign powers urged both sides to stop fighting, fearing for the stability of an already fragile region of Africa.
 
The South Sudan government said on its Twitter account it was no longer in control of Bentiu, the capital of Unity State.
 
“Bentiu is not currently in our hands. It is in the hands of a commander who has declared support for Machar,” it said.
 
Information Minister Michael Makuei said on Saturday an army divisional commander in Unity State, John Koang, had defected and joined rebel leader and former vice president Riek Machar, who had named him the governor of the state.
 
But the government in Juba said it was still in control of the oilfields crucial to the economy.
 
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told a news conference in Manila the U.N. planned to send resources from other peacekeeping missions in the region to South Sudan.
 
“We are now actively trying to transfer our assets from other peacekeeping missions like MONUSCO (in the Democratic Republic of Congo) ... and some other areas,” he said.
 
“And we are also seeking support from other key countries [which] can provide the necessary assets,” said Ban.
 
Clashes between rival groups of soldiers in the capital Juba a week ago have spread across the country, which won its independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war.
 
President Salva Kiir, from South Sudan's Dinka ethnic group, has accused Machar, a Nuer whom he dismissed in July, of trying to launch a coup. The two men have long been political rivals.
 
Machar dismissed the charge but has since said he is commanding troops fighting the government.
 
Machar sightings
 
Government soldiers had come across Machar with a group of fighters, Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said.
 
“Riek managed to escape, used his boat along the Nile and ended up in his village of Ado and went into Bentiu (the administrative capital of Unity) ... the night before, he attacked government institutions,” Benjamin added.
 
On Friday mediators from other African states met Kiir in Juba for what they called “productive” talks. His government said it was willing to hold talks with any rebel group.
 
Kenyan Lieutenant-General Lazarus Sumbeiywo said on Sunday mediators had not yet made contact with Machar to hear his side of the story.
 
“I don't think it is feasible at the moment under the circumstances ... and so we will find another way of getting to Riek Machar. Not through Juba,” Sumbeiywo told Reuters.
 
The army acknowledged losing the town of Bor in Jonglei State on Wednesday, and the United Nations said oil workers had taken refuge in its bases in neighboring Unity.
 
Reuters television footage showed the government sending more troops on Saturday to Bor - the scene of an ethnic massacre of Dinka in 1991 by Nuer fighters loyal to Machar.
 
Benjamin said Machar had not seized oilfields in Unity.
 
“Of course there is a threat. But ... he is not occupying the oilfields. The oil has been running.”
 
Speaking in Khartoum, South Sudan's Ambassador Mayen Dut Wol also said oil was flowing normally. South Sudan's output of 245,000 barrels per day supplies almost all government revenues and hard currency to buy food and other vital imports.
 
The United Nations says hundreds of people have been killed in the conflict and around 62,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in five of South Sudan's 10 states. Around 42,000 of them were seeking refuge at U.N. bases, it added.
 
UN bases looted
 
“Looting of humanitarian compounds has been reported in Jonglei (Akobo and Bor) and Unity. Several U.N. and NGO compounds in Bor town have reportedly been completely looted, including vehicles stolen,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report.
 
A spokesman for U.N. peacekeepers said they were bringing in more aircraft from their logistics base in Entebbe in Uganda to South Sudan.
 
A diplomatic source at the U.N. in New York said elements of the U.N. intervention brigade in eastern Congo could help out in South Sudan, but would only reinforce security at U.N. bases and not try to confront armed groups.
 
The source said the U.N. had asked countries to help it get real-time satellite images of South Sudan and there was a possibility of using unmanned surveillance drones, currently deployed in eastern Congo.
 
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan said on Sunday it was relocating non-essential staff and planned to reinforce its military presence in Bor and Pariang to protect civilians.
 
About 100 civilian staff were being relocated on Sunday, and 60 staff from other U.N. agencies left on Saturday.
 
Three U.S. aircraft came under fire from unidentified forces on Saturday while trying to evacuate Americans from the conflict. The U.S. military said four of its members were wounded in the attacks.
 
The United States safely flew a number of Americans from Bor to Juba on Sunday, the State Department said, adding that overall it had taken about 380 Americans and about 300 citizens of other countries out of South Sudan on four chartered flights and five military aircraft.
 
The U.N. mission in South Sudan said one of four U.N. helicopters sent to Youai, in Jonglei state, had come under small-arms fire on Friday. No crew or passengers were harmed.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Activists for Peace Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: abdulai from: washington, dc
December 22, 2013 6:35 PM
This is indeed a very sad situation. A very young nation that fought for decades to free itself from the tyranny of Khartoum is now on the path to self destruction. As an outsider observing the situation I can only say that its wrong for Macher to take up arms but at the same time Mr Kir must make room for all sides in South Sudan. Its very hard for Westerners to understand it but tribal sentiment in Africa is a very serious issue and have to be handled carefully.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs