South Sudan army poised for battle

2013-12-23 11:35

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Juba - South Sudan's army said on Monday it was poised for a major offensive against rebel forces, as the country slid towards civil war despite international peace efforts.

Expectations of a major upsurge in fighting came as the United Nations warned that the situation in the world's youngest nation was fast unravelling, with hundreds of thousands of civilians now at risk.

Fighting has gripped South Sudan for more than a week, after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar, who was fired from the government in July, of attempting a coup.

Machar denied the claim and accused Kiir of carrying out a vicious purge of his rivals. Vowing to oust Kiir, his forces have since seized the town of Bor, capital of the powder keg eastern Jonglei state and located just 200km north of Juba, as well as the town of Bentiu, capital of crucial oil-producing Unity state.

‘We are readying to take back control’

South Sudan army spokesperson Philip Aguer said the government was on the offensive.

"Our soldiers will regain control of Bor town from the forces of the rebellion. The forces of Machar are still in control of the town, but we readying to take back control," he told AFP.

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.

The UN's top humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, visited the besieged town of Bor on Sunday, and said the situation was rapidly deteriorating.

"It would have been have been difficult one week ago to imagine that things would have unravelled to this extent," Lanzer told AFP.

"There are hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese who've fled into the bush or back to their villages to get out of harm's way," he said.

Asked which areas of the conflict-torn country he was most concerned about, 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.

Hundreds killed, thousands fleeing

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 Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, battle forces backing 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.

Fortifying the Bor camp

Lanzer said the UN is "fortifying the camp in Bor, making sure there is no repeat of Akobo".

"But, as in Akobo, if there are few peacekeepers inside and 2 000 [fighters] outside, there's little we can do," he warned.

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".

UN peacekeepers have said they are also reinforcing their military presence in Pariang in oil-rich Unity state to help protect civilians. As in Bor, a top army commander in Bentiu switched sides to join the rebellion.

"The rebellion controls Bentiu... we are working on regaining control," army spokesperson Aguer said.

‘Area littered with bodies’

Oil production accounts for more than 95 percent of South Sudan's fledgling economy, and the sector has been hit with oil companies evacuating employees after the death of at least five South Sudanese oil workers last week.

Juba's ambassador to Khartoum, however, insisted that oil facilities had not been damaged and oil was still flowing.

A local official in Bentiu said the area was littered with bodies following the fall of the town, and a witness from the area also said unidentified militiamen have been roaming the area for days, setting up road blocks and robbing passers-by.

The witness, who asked not to be identified, suggested fighters from nearby Darfur in Sudan may also have moved to the area to profit from the instability, adding there were unconfirmed reports of rapes.

NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Zuma: Pray for peaceful polls

President Jacob Zuma has asked members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to pray for peaceful elections on 7 May.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Friday Grabouw - 11:32 AM
    Road name: N2 Eastbound
    DELAYS between Sir Lowrys Pass and Grabouw
  • Friday Cape Town - 10:14 AM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    EVENT - left lane closed between Rhodes Avenue and UCT
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Apple iPad 2 White 16GB 9.7" Tablet With WiFi & 3G

Two cameras for FaceTime and HD video recording. The dual-core...

From R5727.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself putting in that extra effort on looking good and making an impression. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.