News / Africa

US Evacuation Aircraft Hit in South Sudan

South Sudan Turmoil Threatens to Spreadi
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December 21, 2013 10:45 PM
The United States and the United Nations are calling for an end to the violence in South Sudan, where the government says more than 500 people have been killed and tens of thousands forced to flee. As VOA's Kent Klein has more.
VIDEO: The United States and United Nations are calling for an end to the violence in South Sudan, where the government says more than 500 people have been killed and tens of thousands forced to flee. VOA's Kent Klein has more.
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The U.S. military says unidentified gunmen have opened fire on American planes involved in a rescue mission in South Sudan.
 
The U.S. Africa Command says four U.S. service members were wounded as a result of gunfire directed at their military aircraft. 
 
The incident took place on Saturday as U.S. forces were trying to rescue Americans from Bor, a town north of the capital, Juba. The mission was aborted and all three planes were diverted to neighboring Uganda.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday sent 45 U.S. service personnel to the region on a mission he said is aimed at protecting U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy.

Bor, South SudanBor, South Sudan
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Bor, South Sudan
Bor, South Sudan
In a White House statement issued Saturday, Obama stressed the importance of the U.S. evacuation mission and said South Sudan's leaders have a responsibility to assist the U.S. efforts.
 
South Sudan's government says rebels have overrun Bor, which has been the scene of some of the country's worst fighting over the past week.
 
The violence erupted after President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, accused former vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer, of attempting a coup. The Juba government says more than 500 people have been killed, and the unrest has forced tens of thousands of people to flee from their homes.
 
Evening and overnight curfews have been enforced in the capital, where military tanks and armored vehicles remain on the streets and the airport has been overrun with people attempting to flee situation.
 
"Hundreds of people [are] trying to leave by charter flight or by any means possible, even with a single bag, because they are so worried that this violence has just spiraled out of control already and they don't trust that the government of South Sudan can protect them any longer," said Juba-based VOA correspondent Hannah McNeish, explaining that many fear what started as a political power struggle is turning into a deeply ethnic conflict.
 
The prevailing unrest within the capital, she added, is nothing compared to events unfolding in other parts of the country.
 
"We've got fighting in Jonglei state, where rebels have taken over the state capital, Bor," she said. "We've also got heavy fighting, apparently, in Unity state, where the oil fields and rebels are battling government forces for control of these."

Story continues below
  • 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.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he is sending a special envoy to South Sudan to encourage talks between opposing factions. Ambassador Donald Booth is heading to the region as soon as possible.
 
The U.N. Security Council president Gerard Araud said Friday that South Sudan's President Kiir and former vice president Machar have agreed to "unconditional dialogue" despite their recent history of bitter recriminations. Mediators from East African countries met with Kiir Friday in what they called productive talks, but what form the Kiir-Machar "dialogue" will take is unclear.
 
On Friday, the U.N. said at least 11 civilians and two peacekeepers had been killed in an attack a day earlier on a U.N. base in the town of Akobo.
 
The U.N. Mission in South Sudan says the peacekeepers and civilians were shot after about 2,000 armed youth, believed to be ethnic Nuers, surrounded the base and opened fire on members of the Dinka ethnic group taking shelter at the U.N. compound.
 
About 35,000 civilians are believed to have fled to U.N. compounds since the latest unrest began.
 
South Sudan is the world's newest country, gaining its independence from Sudan in 2011.

Some information was provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.

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by: Chuol Both Met from: Ethiopia
December 22, 2013 6:00 PM
The media has been dominated by news from Salva Kiir's side of government since the beginning of the conflict. Will those lies really provide any lasting solution to this conflict? Kiir calls the incident, a failed coup attempt. How misleading this statement is? If it was a coup why did the authority deliberately targetted and killed only one innocent ethnic civilian in the city and displaced them? Moreover, how can a civilian(Machar) who has no enough forces in the city and who has confidence that he may win the election make a coup?
Later on, after his home was raided, Machar did not even fight back to defend himself. He had no army around him. Instead, he just ran out for his life. Can we call that incident a coup? That is all false. That does not reflect the definition of coup at all. Kiir himself is a criminal who has targetted and killed innocent members of one ethnic group to remain in power because he is worried about Machar's popularity. But the question is, will he manage to solve the country problem with foreigners without the involvement of other concerned citizens whom he hated? Will such a goverment inpested by isolation and ruled by one ethnic group fully materialize without other groups such as those that constitute the second largest population in the country?

In addition to his accusation of Mr Machar of such a coup, Kiir also misled the public, saying that Juba is calm and peaceful while the people who were victims of his brutal raids and still sheltering at UNMISS bases in the city are afraid to go back to their homes. Instead, they want to go to their repective states within the country. On the other hand, no one even talks about the falsely arrested representatives of the people, why the people are afraid to go to their homes, how they feel about the government or how the general public outside Juba and whose family members have become victims of Kiir's brutal act feel.

How difficult will it be to solve the country problem by giving attention to the lies of one side or one ethnic group? Is it a democratic system or another dictatorial system against one ethnic group? Is AU forcing citizens who have legitimate rights in their own country to choose their leader to recognize and accept Salva Kiir who has become a threat to their security and their lives? I guess any attempt to solve this conflict that way is just a waste of time and resources. Such a dialogue will not produce any lasting solution. Instead, it will cause more damage to the whole peace process if you keep pushing that way.

Eventually, if you are really looking for a lasting solution, first of all you need to remember what the Bible says. "Speak the truth and the truth will set you free". Denying the truth sometimes creates more trouble. In this case, if you want the truth, release all the arrested representatives and speak to all sides' represntatives openly including those arrested and consider what they say in the resolution process. Lack of understanding is a problem. Hence, if you do understand the situation on the ground, you may realize that Kiir has chased one ethnic group population out of the capital city, Juba. As I have learnt from contacts I made with some of these people, no one actually wants to go out there and live among Kiir's remaining tribe any more. As a matter of fact, the mediators need to be careful in handling the situation, if they are there to bring a lasting solution to the problem or really willing to help the people of South Sudan get a lasting solution. Let them not take sides as Uganda is doing. That will cause more damage to the peace process than expected. It is only open dialogue that will help.

by: Both Tongyik Chan from: Gambella/west-Ethiopia
December 22, 2013 5:01 AM
the problem is not from Nuer tribe, even kiir believed that. what happened in Akobo is retaliation of what when wrong in Capital Juba. Unimiss is assistance to all tribes rather than helping one group. when the fighting broke out in Juba they felt to protect Nuer who were under condition. why ? Nuer die in Juba where there were unimiss. just do not blamed Nuer Please !

by: Andrew oforma from: Nigeria
December 22, 2013 1:52 AM
The so called proposed negotiation should start now. Not when all non combatants have been killed before it can commerce. Early the better. World leader Please! Save the defenceless and innocent people from unwarranted power tussle.

by: CE Emeh from: Nigeria
December 22, 2013 1:11 AM
It truly worrisome that a disagreement between two individuals has plunged the entire country into this crisis and taken a great toll on innocent civilians who ordinarily have no business with their personal ambition. When will the ordinary people learn to distance themselves from being used in this kind of situation?

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