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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs