South Sudan clashes: U.S. to evacuate some citizens

The United States will start evacuating non-essential embassy staff and citizens from South Sudan on Wednesday after army factions clashed, killing up to 500 people and raising fears of a broader civil conflict in the two-year-old nation.

Report by Reuters

Gunbattles erupted on Sunday night between army factions, split along ethnic lines, focused around two army barracks next to the capital in what the government called a coup attempt.

Residents said Juba was calm on Wednesday after sporadic gunfire overnight. Traffic was slowly returning to the streets and officials said the airport would re-open on Wednesday.

The government said it arrested 10 people, including seven former ministers, over the “foiled coup” and wanted to question several others, including former Vice President Riek Machar.

The United States, which has urged its citizens to leave South Sudan, said it would start evacuating its people from Juba airport on flights organized by the U.S. State Department.

Britain said it was gathering the names of any citizens who wanted to leave and residents said other Western nations were expected to follow. Many aid workers live and work in Juba.

Diplomats said the United Nations had reports of between 400 and 500 people killed and up to 800 wounded in the oil producing nation, which has been struggled to build a functioning state.

“Most people are scared they might be confronted with a mob or see dead bodies,” said one aid worker in Juba, adding that the city was calmer on Wednesday morning, after residents awoke to heavy gunfire and artillery blasts on Monday and Tuesday.

President Salva Kiir blamed the clashes on backers of Machar, who he sacked in July. After his sacking, Machar said he would run for president and accused Kiir of being dictatorial.

Kiir, who before the clashes said his rivals were reviving rifts that led to bloodshed in the 1990s, has faced public criticism for doing little to improve life in one of Africa’s poorest nations that won independence from Sudan in 2011.

POLITICAL ROWS

“Salva must recognize that the charge of his being ‘dictatorial’ has taken deep hold, and he must do what is necessary to shed the label as much as possible,” South Sudan expert Eric Reeves wrote in an assessment of the violence.

Kiir’s dominant Dinka group and Machar’s Nuer have fought before. But analysts say divisions in South Sudan run deep with opposing factions running broadly along ethnic lines emerging in the army, probably beyond either leaders’ control.

“There are a number of urgent steps he (Kiir) must take to secure the confidence of the international community, and to put the Nuer community at ease in the Juba area and elsewhere,” Reeves said. “He must ensure that fighting does not spread.”

Conflict between southerners could hurt vital aid flows and might be exploited by Sudan’s government, analysts said.

South Sudan has frequently been caught up in political rows with Sudan, leading to a 15-month shutdown of oil production and exports through a pipeline running through Sudan, cutting off the young nation’s almost sole source or revenue.

Though fighting has centred around the capital, there have been some reports of clashes elsewhere.

Hussein Maar, deputy governor of Jonglei State, north of Juba, reported fighting at two barracks a few kilometers from the town of Bor, the place where in 1991 a faction of soldiers loyal to Machar massacred hundreds of Dinka.

Majok Guangdong Thiep, South Sudan’s ambassador to Kenya, told Kenyan television the airport would re-open on Wednesday. He said the situation in Juba was under control.

However, an official at Kenya airline Fly540 said a flight due to depart at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) from Nairobi for Juba did not leave because the South Sudanese airport was not open.

“Planes due to take off for Juba are empty as people don’t want to go there. Even the Sudanese don’t want to go home,” said the Fly540 official, who asked not to be identified.

3 Responses to South Sudan clashes: U.S. to evacuate some citizens

  1. Gutter Poet December 22, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    Granted it is not fair to lump Kiir with all the ills afflicting the New Sudan but it has to be acknowledged that the buck stops with him..he is the president. And if he can not work with his deputy, who by nature of the job description works in his office what of the other political players on the fringes of the country’s body politic? Why is he not accommodating as befitting a leader in the 21st century. Now having started with hostilities with Khartoum and now with those internal where does he go from here given that using brute force to move the nation forward. It is also alleged that the wife of his late boss is one of those people who are rebelling against him? Might it not be simplifying matters suggesting that this is a tribal conflict? This is tempting and provides an easy way out. My view is Mr. Kiir must shed his miliaristic outlook and start behaving like statesman who is willing and able to take divergent views on board to move the agenda of brining peace and development to his countrymen forward..Anything else will take him nowhere..the sad thing is he will take the country down with him. That would be a shame, wouldnt it?

  2. Gutter Poet December 22, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    The above post has an incomplete line..this should read..’using brute force to move the nation forward has failed’

  3. Musona December 22, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    This is typical of African politics – they first fight a so-called “common enemy” and then fight each other afterwards. All the politicians are after is personal political power. We have got another Somalia in the making here.

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