News / Africa

S. Sudan Forces Advance on Rebel-held Town Before Peace Talks

Displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, prepare to sleep in the open at night in the town of Awerial, South Sudan, Jan. 1, 2014.
Displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, prepare to sleep in the open at night in the town of Awerial, South Sudan, Jan. 1, 2014.
Reuters
South Sudan's army (SPLA) said it was advancing on two rebel-controlled towns on Thursday as both sides gathered in Ethiopia for peace talks to end three weeks of violence that has pushed the world's youngest nation towards civil war.
Refugees and Internally Displaced in South SudanRefugees and Internally Displaced in South Sudan
x
Refugees and Internally Displaced in South Sudan
Refugees and Internally Displaced in South Sudan

Both sides have agreed in principle to a ceasefire but neither has indicated when the fighting, which has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced nearly 200,000, will stop.
 
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir declared a state of emergency late on Wednesday in Unity state and Jonglei, whose respective provincial capitals of Bentiu and Bor are in the hands of militia loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.
 
A rebel spokesman in Unity dismissed the SPLA's comments on its advance as lies and said South Sudan's army and the national government in the capital Juba had resorted to a “war of allegations” before peace negotiations could get underway.
 
International pressure for a peace deal is mounting. Neighboring countries mediating between the two warring sides have warned  that continued fighting could scupper talks.
 
“We are advancing to Bor because these people want to come to Juba,” SPLA Chief of Staff James Hoth Mai told reporters in the capital. “We don't yet have a ceasefire and we don't want them to come and get us.”
 
Bor lies 190 kilometers (118 miles) north of Juba by road. Analysts say control of Bor hands the rebels a territorial base relatively close to Juba, strengthening their negotiating hand.
 
Mai said SPLA troops were also approaching Bentiu after seizing the nearby town of Mayom on Wednesday. A rebel spokesman in Bentiu said Mayom remained in rebel hands, a comment backed up by a spokesman for the United Nations mission in South Sudan.
 
“As of early morning, our understanding was that Mayom was in the hands of troops belonging to Division 4 of the SPLA who have defected to Machar,” the U.N.'s Joe Contreras told Reuters.

Stench of death
 
The clashes erupted on Dec. 15 and quickly spread to half of the country's 10 states, unsettling oil markets and raising fears of the conflict destabilizing an already fragile region.
 
Kiir has accused his long-term political rival Machar, whom he sacked in July, of starting the fighting in a bid to seize power. The conflict has split the country along ethnic lines, between Kiir's Dinkas and Machar's Nuer group.
 
Machar denies Kiir's charge but he has taken to the bush and has acknowledged leading soldiers battling the government.
 
Bor's Anglican bishop, Ruben Akurdit Ngong, said bodies littered the town, where Nuer militias massacred Dinkas in an outburst of inter-ethnic fighting in 1991.
 
“The town smells terribly of human corpses,” said Ngong, who fled the rebels' advance on Bor on Sunday after prayers.
 
The SPLA estimates the number of rebels in Bor at between 4,000-7,000.
 
Mediators say the talks in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa are meant to focus on how to roll out and monitor a ceasefire.
 
Asked if both sides were genuine about a ceasefire, Andrew Mace, Britain's acting envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, said more needed to be done to demonstrate that commitment.
 
“[It] looks like they're still moving for a military advantage rather than preparing a ceasefire,” Mace said.
 
Rebel negotiators are already in Addis Ababa. An Ethiopian  official said only half of the government's delegation was present, with the remainder due in the city later on Thursday.
 
Each side would meet with Seyoum Mesfin, one of two mediators appointed by the east African bloc IGAD. “Then [they] hopefully proceed to face-to-face talks,” the official added.
 
The White House has raised the pressure for talks, saying there would be accountability for any atrocities and war crimes.
 
The U.N. mission in South Sudan said ethnic-based atrocities, often carried out against civilians by uniformed men, had taken place across the country.
 
The government said on Thursday it had formed a committee to investigate those involved in killing innocent people.

  • Members of the South Sudan rebel delegation attend the opening ceremony of South Sudan's peace negotiations, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 4, 2014.
  • Taban Deng Gai, left, head of the rebel delegation and South Sudan's leader of the government delegation, Nhial Deng Nhial, attend the opening ceremony of South Sudan's peace negotiations, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 4, 2014.
  • Unidentified members of the delegation from the South Sudan government and western observers meet at the Sheraton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 4, 2014.
  • A displaced mother and her baby, one of the few to have a mosquito net, wake up at a refugee camp, Awerial, South Sudan, Jan. 2, 2014.
  • A young displaced girl carries a bucket of water back to her makeshift shelter at a United Nations compound. The compound has become home to thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting, Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 31, 2013.
  • Displaced people gather inside a mosquito net tent as they flee from the fighting between the South Sudanese army and rebels in Bor town, in Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 30, 2013.
  • A displaced woman hangs up laundry on the plastic sheeting wall of a latrine at a United Nations compound, Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 31, 2013.
  • Yared, 2, is held by his mother, Madhn, who fled from the town of Bor a few days ago. She receives medicine for her child at a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) medical tent, at a United Nations compound, Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 31, 2013.
  • A young displaced boy rests on the wheel arch of a water truck while others fill containers from it, at a United Nations compound, Juba, South Africa, Dec. 31, 2013.
  • A family makes tea outside their makeshift shelter at a United Nations compound, Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 31, 2013.
  • A general view of a camp for displaced people set up in a United Nations compound in Bor, South Sudan, Dec. 25, 2013.
  • South Sudan army soldiers hold their weapons as they ride on a truck in Bor, Dec. 25, 2013.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid