South Sudan: At least 500 killed in fighting
December 18, 2013

South Sudan President Salva Kirr
  • Up to 13,000 fled to UN Compounds in Juba city
  • At least 500 killed, 800 wounded
  • US orders staff out of Juba

NITED NATIONS (AFP) -- Clashes between rival army factions in South Sudan have left up to 500 dead and 800 wounded, a top UN official told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

The United Nations has been told by local hospitals that between 400 and 500 people have been killed in South Sudan’s capital since Sunday, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the council, according to diplomats who attended a private briefing with him.

Troops loyal to President Salva Kiir have been fighting rival followers of former vice president Riek Machar. Salva Kiir has accused the rival camp of staging a coup.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people have sought refuge in UN compounds around Juba, Ladsous was quoted as saying.

Ladsous told the council that the United Nations had not been able to verify the toll given by two hospitals in the capital, Juba.

Security Council president Gerard Araud, France’s UN ambassador, said after the emergency consultations that while the number of dead had not been confirmed “there is a heavy toll, it is obvious.”

Araud added that fighting had also been reported outside of the capital, in Pibor in Jonglei state which has a history of clashes between rival ethnic groups.

The government said 10 key figures including ex-ministers have been arrested, but that Riek Machar was on the run.

Araud said the fighting appeared to be on ethnic lines. Salva Kiir is an Ethnic Dinka while Riek Machar is a Nuer.

A Security Council statement expressed “serious concern” over the fighting that has caused “large numbers of casualties, as well as over the risk of targeted violence against certain communities.”

The council called on both sides to “immediately cease hostilities.”

UN leader Ban Ki-moon spoke with Salva Kiir on Tuesday and urged him to offer “dialogue” with the opposition. Ban also spoke with the president of neighboring Uganda, Yoweri Musseveni, about the unrest, officials said.

The Security Council also said Salva Kiir’s government should hold talks with the opposition.

The Security Council meeting was called at the request of the United States which has ordered non-essential diplomatic staff out of South Sudan.- AFP

US orders staff out of South Sudan amid unrest

Meanwhile, the United States ordered nonemergency government personnel to leave South Sudan and suspended normal operations at its embassy there Tuesday as political and social unrest continued to confront the fledgling African nation, the Associated Press reported from Washington on Tuesday.

The State Department also warned U.S. citizens not to travel to South Sudan and recommended that Americans in the country depart immediately. Routine consular services normally provided by the U.S. Embassy in Juba have been halted, although the embassy was still accepting requests for emergency assistance from Americans.

"U.S. citizens who choose to stay in South Sudan despite this warning should review their personal security situation and seriously reconsider their plans to remain," the department said in a travel warning.

The announcement came as South Sudan remains on edge as its military hunts soldiers suspected of mounting a coup attempt on Sunday, sparking gunfights. Gunfire continued to ring out Tuesday in Juba, South Sudan's capital.

The fighting has forced about 13,000 people to seek refuge at United Nations facilities, the U.N. said. A senior Ministry of Health official said at least 26 people, mostly soldiers, have died in the violence, although other groups put the casualties in the hundreds.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. is "deeply concerned" about the situation and that President Barack Obama is being briefed on developments there. Carney called on South Sudan's government to open critical points of entry and exit, including the airport, as the U.S. works to remove embassy personnel from the country.

The oil-rich East African nation has been plagued by ethnic tension since it broke away from Sudan in 2011.

"Circumstances there have gotten worse," Carney said, adding that the recent violence moves the nation further from its goal of forging an inclusive, peaceful democratic state. But he said if South Sudan makes the right choices going forward, "we are confident it can get back on track."

The State Department urged Americans planning travel to South Sudan to check for updates on its website and to notify the State Department in advance. U.S. citizens in South Sudan who need consular services should contact U.S. embassies in Uganda, Ethiopia or Kenya. - An African-American news and views website.
Copyright 2013