News / Africa

Uganda says Region Ready to Take On, Defeat S. Sudan Rebel Leader

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (front R) arrives for the Heads of States and Governments International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in Nairobi July 31, 2013.
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (front R) arrives for the Heads of States and Governments International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in Nairobi July 31, 2013.
Reuters
Uganda's president said on Monday the nations of East Africa had agreed to move in to defeat South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar if he rejected a ceasefire offer, threatening to turn an outburst of ethnic fighting into a regional conflict.
 
Hours after President Yoweri Museveni's ultimatum, rebels and the feared “White Army” militia clashed against government troops just outside Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, officials said.
 
They said the government side was braced for a “full-scale” attack on the town, seized by rebels for several days earlier this month and the site of an ethnic massacre in 1991. Thousands of civilians had fled for the surrounding swamps.
 
Two weeks of clashes have already killed at least 1,000 people in the world's newest nation, unnerved oil markets and raised fears of a civil war in a region ravaged by fighting in Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.
 
“We gave Riek Machar four days to respond [to the ceasefire offer] and if he doesn't we shall have to go for him, all of us,” Museveni told reporters in South Sudan's capital, Juba, referring to a Dec. 31 deadline.
 
Asked what that meant, Museveni said: “to defeat him”.
 
He did not spell out whether South Sudan's neighbors had actually agreed to send troops to join the conflict that erupted in Juba on Dec. 15.
 
But his words underlined the scale of regional concern over the fighting that has spread to South Sudan's oil-producing states - often along ethnic lines, between Machar's group, the Nuer, and President Salva Kiir's Dinka.
 
Past conflicts in South Sudan have sent refugees pouring over its borders and spurred on rebels in neighboring countries, including the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda.
 
There was no immediate confirmation of the pact to take on Machar from other East African countries, which have been trying to mediate and last week gave the sides until Dec. 31 to lay down their weapons.
 
Kenya's presidential spokesman, Manoah Esipisu, said it would be inappropriate to comment until the deadline has passed. Machar himself did not respond to calls.
 
Information Minister Michael Makuei said the rebels want to take Bor ahead of the deadline so Machar “can talk from a position of strength” once peace talks start.
 
“This is why he has been intransigent,” Makuei said.
 
Fighting Displaces 180,000
 
The United Nations, Washington, and other Western countries that have poured hundreds of millions of dollars of aid into South Sudan since it won its independence from Sudan in 2011 have also scrambled to stem the unrest.
 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has had regular contact with regional leaders and spoken almost daily to both Kiir and Machar since Dec. 20 to push for a ceasefire, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
 
“What we have said is there is no place for violence here and the sides need to take a step back and move towards a mediated negotiated political dialog,” Harf said.
 
Meanwhile, U.S. special envoy to South Sudan, Donald Booth, was in Juba on Monday “attempting to work with both President Kiir and former Vice President Machar to finalize details of a political dialog and arrange for negotiations to begin in coming days,” Harf added.
 
“It is a very complicated and tenuous situation,” she said, adding that 400 U.S. official and private citizens had been evacuated from South Sudan since the trouble erupted.
 
Fighting has displaced at least 180,000 people, including 75,000 seeking refuge inside U.N. bases across the country, according to U.N. figures.
 
Falling global oil prices have been kept in check by fears there could be further cuts to output in South Sudan, which BP says holds the third-largest oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa after Angola and Nigeria.
 
South Sudan's oil production has fallen by nearly a fifth to 200,000 barrels per day after oilfields in Unity state were shut last week due to the fighting.
 
Control Risks analyst Paul Gabriel said Museveni's words were probably aimed at pressing Machar to join talks, rather than a threat of imminent intervention.
 
There was currently little regional appetite to get involved in the fighting, though “that might change quickly if there is a situation where Juba or President Kiir is threatened,” Gabriel added.
 
Kiir sacked his longtime political rival Machar in July and then accused him of starting the December fighting to try to seize power.
 
Machar denied that charge, but has since retreated into the bush and acknowledged he is leading rebel fighters. He has responded coolly to the ceasefire offer and the army, the SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army) has said it has continued to fight his soldiers.
 
“White Army” Threat
 
“The SPLA forces in Bor town are on maximum alert,” SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer said on Monday night after skirmishes with the Nuer “White Army” militia just outside the town.
 
The White Army - made up of Nuer youths who dust their bodies in white ash - has in the past sided with Machar.
 
But a spokesman for the government of South Sudan's Unity state, now controlled by forces loyal to Machar, on Sunday denied Machar was in control of the White Army fighters, raising the prospect that the violence was spreading beyond the control of widely recognized ethnic leaders.
 
Thousands of civilians have fled from Bor over the past few days, crossing the White Nile river and heading for the swamps, Makuei told Reuters. Nuer militias massacred Dinkas in Bor during an outburst of ethnic fighting in 1991.
 
“They [the White Army] have attacked the village of Mathiang [18 miles (30 km) from Bor], killing civilians and burning civilian houses down. They are butchering civilians,” said Bor's mayor, Nhial Majak Nhial, from the town, 190 km [120 miles] north of Juba.
 
Nhial said he was urging civilians to escape Bor as the White Army militia neared.
 
The reports of clashes and advances came from remote areas largely inaccessible to journalists and it was not possible to verify them independently.
 
Tribal elders over the weekend persuaded many of the Nuer youths advancing on Bor to abandon their march, but officials said about 5,000 refused to turn

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid