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Civil war looming in South Sudan as president says army ready to take on rebels

Civil war looming in South Sudan as president says army ready to take on rebels thumbnail

South Sudan president has threatened rebel held areas with a major offensive despite diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in the world’s youngest nation

The last British evacuation flight took off just after midday as thousands of expatriates remained behind, hoping a descent into civil war could be averted.

Troops loyal to Salva Kiir, the president, were poised to start a major push on Bor and Bentiu, strategic towns now controlled by the mutinying soldiers allied behind Riek Machar, the former vice-president.

Both towns lie to the north of Juba, the capital, where the military aircraft chartered by the Foreign Office took off for Dubai carrying the last British citizens who had chosen to evacuate.

Riek Machar (Reuters)

Thousands of foreigners remain behind in Juba, where there are fears that they could become trapped over Christmas if the international airport closes again and scheduled regional flights are halted.

“It’s a calculated risk that Juba will remain unaffected by fighting and we can stay and keep business ticking over,” said Mark Dilley, a logistician from Exeter working for a private contractor in South Sudan.

“There was a temptation to get on those evac flights. There’s pretty much no-one left at the British Embassy to help if things get ugly here, but I think those of us left reckon we can manage.” President Obama has ordered close to 100 troops into the country to protect US citizens and interests there, and warned Congress that he “may take further action” if the situation deteriorates.

Donald Booth, Mr Obama’s envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, arrived in Juba yesterday to meet the president and opposition representatives.

Mr Machar remains in hiding but will talk with Mr Booth by telephone.

The chances of successful negotiations to pull the world’s newest country back from the brink of civil war appeared slim yesterday.

“You’ve got the leaders saying they’ll talk, then you’ve got their guys readying to have at each other in Bor or Bentiu or wherever,” one Western diplomat evacuated to Nairobi said. “It does not bode well.”

More than 500 people have died since the violence flared 10 days ago.

Close to 100,000 people had fled their homes, Toby Lanzer, the United Nation’s humanitarian coordinator said.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir (Reuters)

“The forces of Machar are still in control of the town, but we readying to take back control,” he said.

The comments came despite days of shuttle diplomacy by African nations and calls from the United States, Britain and the United Nations for the fighting to stop.

Asked which areas of the conflict-torn country he was most concerned about, Mr Lanzer said that “it would be quicker to talk about which areas I’m not worried about.”

“I hope to be wrong, otherwise, hundreds of thousands will need help very soon,” he said, adding he was “very concerned that a battle looms” in Bor, where he admitted that the UN peacekeepers were unlikely to be in a position to protect the estimated 15,000 civilians seeking shelter at the UN base there.

The clashes have left hundreds dead – possibly many more – and sent tens of thousands of people fleeing for protection in UN bases or to safer parts of the country, which only won independence from Sudan in 2011.

The young nation is oil-rich but deeply impoverished and awash with guns after the long war with Khartoum, and has grappled with corruption and lawlessness since independence.

There are both ethnic and political dimensions to the fighting, as troops loyal to Mr Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, battle forces backing Mr Machar, a Nuer.

Nuer gunmen stormed a UN base last week killing two Indian peacekeepers and slaughtering at least 20 Dinka civilians who had fled to the compound for shelter, and there have been reports of ethnically-motivated killings and attacks in the capital Juba and elsewhere.

Foreign governments, including in Britain, Kenya, Lebanon, Uganda and the US, have been evacuating their nationals. On Saturday four US servicemen were wounded when their aircraft came under fire in a rebel-held area.

Britain is sending its third and final military aircraft on Monday to evacuate citizens, warning those who chose to stay “may have difficulty leaving in the event of a further deterioration in security”.


6 Comments on "Civil war looming in South Sudan as president says army ready to take on rebels"

  1. DC on Mon, 23rd Dec 2013 8:59 pm 

    So, the artificial ‘country’ that US and allied MNC helped ‘create’ is now facing a civil war?! Damn, creating new resource colonies is tricker than we thought.

    Wait a minute. I got an idea. Lets create two new countries.

    How about, South-West Sudan and South East Sudan. Problem solved!

  2. Arthur on Mon, 23rd Dec 2013 10:01 pm 

    In this case it has nothing to do with US and/or resources.

    It started in 2011 as a pure tribal conflict between Murle and Lou Nuer ethnic groups over the theft of [drummroll] 40k cattle.

  3. noobtube on Tue, 24th Dec 2013 12:16 am 

    Yeah, 40k cattle are the reason the State-run media are letting the morons in the United States and Europe know all about it.

    I didn’t know African affairs were so important to the “West” consumers.

  4. Arthur on Tue, 24th Dec 2013 7:10 am 

    Examples of real recent US meddling: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria.

    Sudan is not because it is not interesting, although there are the usual calls in the US for ‘humanitarian intervention’, that is a new opportunity for the US to set itself up to ‘police the world’.

    A little embarrasing fact for noob is that black-on-black slavery is back in the South-Sudan. You can have a slave for $50,-, excluding maintenance:

    The idea of the ‘noble savage’ in contrast to the historic image of the ‘evil white slave trader’ is a myth. Everybody will resort to slavery, regardless of color, if only the level of economic desperation is high enough. The difference between the 17-19th century and the beginning of the 21th century is that now westerners have 100+ virtual energy slaves per capita and as such nobody in the West is interested in slaves. But in black Africa the tide is already turning.

  5. Makati1 on Tue, 24th Dec 2013 9:53 am 

    You can be sure that the US is involved somewhere there. Possibly supplying money or arms or both. The Empire is busy trying to keep China at bay in Africa but are losing the game. The US CIA is behind almost all of the problems in Africa and South America since WW2.

    Really, no slaves in the US? I would say that most of the population are enslaved to the banks. They are now feeling the collars and weights, just as are those in Europe,

  6. Bob Inget on Tue, 24th Dec 2013 6:26 pm 

    It’s not in the international community’s interests to have ‘civil’ war in South Sudan. As in Libya, foreign oil workers are the first to leave.
    Loss of Sudan’s oil exports is already having devastating effects on its population. There is no way neighboring
    countries are in a position to give aid.

    Oil prices in Europe are rising BECAUSE of the fighting making Western Aid even more difficult.

    Scale of Atrocities taking place as we read are reminiscent of Rwanda and Syria.
    Belonging to the ‘wrong tribe’ brings dismemberment, torture, certain death.

    Literally millions will perish for lack of food or outside aid.

    The UN, the US are sending in a few troops but it’s an impossible task trying to subdue mobs of armed, angry and hungry.

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