News / Africa

South Sudan Unrest Worries US

South Sudan President Salva Kiir tells reporters at a news conference in Juba that the government has "full control" of the situation in the capital after what he says was an overnight coup attempt, Dec. 16, 2013.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir tells reporters at a news conference in Juba that the government has "full control" of the situation in the capital after what he says was an overnight coup attempt, Dec. 16, 2013.
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— U.S. officials are keeping a close watch on South Sudan, where violence persists despite claims by the government in Juba that the situation is under control.

Throughout the day Monday, nervous residents in Juba fled to safety whereever they could find it.

Many, like this woman, took refuge at a United Nations compound.

She said many were running away... that a baby had been shot and killed.

Even after South Sudanese President Salva Kiir told the country the government was in “full control,” and declared a curfew, the U.S. Embassy in Juba reported the sounds of gunfire echoing in nearby streets, urging people to take cover.

“It's a very fluid situation. We're going to keep monitoring it," said State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf.

Harf said given the history of conflict in the region, the U.S. is concerned that the violence could spread.

“We certainly don't want that to be the case. That's why we're calling on all parties to resolve their differences through peaceful means," she said.

U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth told VOA South Sudan in Focus that the U.S. is not ready to call what took place a coup, but that much remains unclear.

“We've been concerned for some time of rising tensions. We've been reaching out to numerous parties in South Sudan, in Juba, to put together a picture of what has happened," said Booth.

There have also been rumors that, in connection with the violence, some former South Sudanese officials have been looking for ways out. But the U.S. Embassy said Monday “no political or military figures have taken refuge” within its walls.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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