News / Africa

    US Working to Advance South Sudan Talks, End Violence

    Families displaced by recent fighting in South Sudan, camp in a warehouse inside the United Nations Mission in Sudan facility in Jabel, on the outskirts of capital Juba, Dec. 23, 2013.Families displaced by recent fighting in South Sudan, camp in a warehouse inside the United Nations Mission in Sudan facility in Jabel, on the outskirts of capital Juba, Dec. 23, 2013.
    x
    Families displaced by recent fighting in South Sudan, camp in a warehouse inside the United Nations Mission in Sudan facility in Jabel, on the outskirts of capital Juba, Dec. 23, 2013.
    Families displaced by recent fighting in South Sudan, camp in a warehouse inside the United Nations Mission in Sudan facility in Jabel, on the outskirts of capital Juba, Dec. 23, 2013.
    The United States says a political solution may be in the works to end the deadly fighting in South Sudan. But that is not stopping U.S. defense officials from repositioning troops just in case the crisis gets worse.

    As thousands of South Sudanese gathered at a United Nations camp in Juba seeking safety, the U.S. special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan also was in the capital, meeting with President Salva Kiir.

    Ambassador Donald Booth, speaking by phone to reporters in Washington, said Monday the two had a "frank and open discussion," and that Kiir is ready to begin talks with former vice president Riek Machar to end the violence.

    Booth also visited with 11 senior officials allied with Machar, who are being held in Juba. He said they are in good health, and he expressed a willingness to end the crisis peacefully.

    • 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.

    All eyes on young nation

    Earlier, though, Machar told Reuters there can be no talks until they are released.

    "These are the people who will engage in the dialogue. We want a peaceful settlement of this conflict. We do not want our people to be subjected to a lot of suffering. They have already suffered enough. We want peace,'' he said.

    At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned both sides the world is watching. "Attacks on civilians and the U.N. peacekeepers deployed to protect them must cease immediately. The United Nations will investigate reports of grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity. Those responsible at the senior level will be held personally accountable and face the consequences - even if they claim they had no knowledge of the attacks.''

    There are about 7,000 U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan, and the secretary-general is asking for more to be sent.

    Ban Ki-moon has asked the Security Council to send 5,500 more peacekeepers to South Sudan as soon as possible, to protect civilians from worsening violence.

    The Security Council is due to vote Tuesday afternoon on a resolution to transfer troops from other U.N. missions in Africa.

    The United States Africa Command also is taking precautions, said U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren. "The combatant commander is repositioning his forces in the region to ensure that we've got capabilities necessary to respond to any request from the State Department."

    U.S. officials already have evacuated about 380 Americans from South Sudan and say more American civilians may still be in the country. As of yet, they say there has been no request to use those troops in what a senior administration official describes as a very fluid situation.

    Bloody ethnic clashes

    Journalist Hannah McNeish, who is in the capital, Juba, said the fighting has a clear ethnic element, with members of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups targeting each other.

    "There are people going house to house, tracking people down in term of ethnicity. They are taking them out of their houses, they are binding their hands, and executing them if they are not the right ethnicity. This is completely out of control," said McNeish.

    Soldiers believed to be allied with Machar have taken over the capitals of South Sudan's Unity and Jonglei states.

    South Sudan army spokesman Phili Aguer said troops will retake those towns. “Definitely the army will recontrol these areas. It's a matter of days and the army will control Jonglei state, and we will work for the re-establishment of the full control of the national army over South Sudan."

    Intense U.S. focus

    The spokesman also accused fighters backing Machar of shooting at a U.S. aircraft that was evacuating citizens from Bor on Saturday. The U.S. military did not identify the shooters, but said four of its personnel were injured.

    U.S. President Barack Obama said Sunday he "may take further action" to protect Americans in South Sudan.

    Obama is on vacation in the Pacific state of Hawaii, but he said in a letter to congressional leaders that about 46 U.S. troops were deployed Saturday to help with the evacuation. That is in addition to 45 troops deployed to reinforce the U.S. embassy in Juba.

    The U.N. secretary-general called on South Sudan leaders to find a "political means" to address the conflict, saying the continued violence poses a "dangerous threat" to the future of the young country.

    Jeff Seldin

    Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

    You May Like

    Video Somali, AU Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    Somalia’s Western backers frustrated over country’s slow progress in establishing its armed forces to bring security after 25 years of chaos

    Israel Makes Push for Gaza Strip Recovery

    After years of economic blockade and attempts to disable Hamas, Israeli leaders eventually realized that Hamas’ downfall could lead to chaos or the rise of a more radical Jihadist group

    Slump in Chinese Tourists Hitting Hong Kong Retail

    Mainland Chinese account for up to three-quarters of visitors to Hong Kong, but that number is falling, and shopping centers are struggling to 'shift gears' and maintain sales

    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.
    Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shababi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    April 28, 2016 4:20 PM
    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Town Receives Refugees but Lacks Resources

    A wave of refugees is pouring into the Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria as a result of fighting between rebel forces and Islamic State militants. VOA’s Amina Misto went to the town and reports local authorities are finding it difficult to cope with this influx of internally displaced people. Bronwyn Benito narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Build Human Tissue on Animal Matrix

    The question has always been, if a gecko can grow back its tail, why can't we regenerate our lost body parts? Well, maybe we can, someday. Scientists are moving towards the ability to rebuild fully functioning organs, and have made significant progress replacing muscles and other tissue.
    Video

    Video Containing Chernobyl Radiation Continues 30 Years After Explosion

    April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Hundreds were killed following the explosion and it's estimated that thousands more have died from cancers caused by the radiation. Henry Ridgwell traveled to Chernobyl and reports for VOA on the continuing efforts to decommission the site -- and on the fledgling plans for a new future in the vast exclusion zone.
    Video

    Video Frustration Builds Among Refugees Trapped at Macedonian Border

    On the Greek border with Macedonia, 12,000 refugees continue to wait. Since the route to the rest of Europe was closed last month, the makeshift camp at Idomeni has seen protests and tear gas. But while those here wait, their frustration grows — as do reports of people attempting to find new ways of continuing their journey. John Owens reports from Idomeni.
    Video

    Video Researchers: Bees Help Kenyan Farmers Fend Off Elephants

    Elephant crop-raiding continues to be a major source of human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, so one elephant researcher is helping to alleviate the problem near Tsavo East National Park with beehive fences, which use elephants’ natural aversion to bees to deter them from farms. VOA’s Jill Craig visited the area ahead of this month's Giants Club Summit, which will bring together dignitaries at Mount Kenya to find solutions to combat poaching, the No. 1 threat to elephants.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora