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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora