UN reinforcements start arriving in South Sudan

2013-12-28 08:15
(Albert Gonzalez Farran, AFP)

(Albert Gonzalez Farran, AFP)

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

Juba - The first UN peacekeeping reinforcements arrived on Friday in South Sudan, where the government is said to have agreed an immediate ceasefire after nearly two weeks of heavy fighting with rebels.

The United Nations warned that tensions remained dangerously high despite efforts to halt a slide into civil war in the world's youngest nation which is believed to have left thousands dead.

East African leaders acting as peace brokers announced on Friday that the government of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir had agreed to a ceasefire.

But the de facto leader of the rebels, Riek Machar - whom Kiir accuses of having tried to mount a coup after being sacked as vice president in July - would not immediately commit to a truce.

In a satellite telephone interview with the BBC from an undisclosed located, Machar said a mechanism was required to monitor any ceasefire.

"For the ceasefire to be credible there is need for a mechanism, or else we will be deceiving ourselves," he said.

He also demanded that Kiir release all 11 of his political allies who were arrested right at the beginning of the unrest, while acknowledging that two of them had been freed.

Civil war

The regional leaders brokering the end to hostilities have given Machar and Kiir four days to hold face-to-face talks and halt fighting, pledging unspecified "further action" if the civil war continued.

Meanwhile the UN said dangers remained so acute that large numbers of bodies had been seen outside at least one UN base, but could not be collected.

A 72-member UN police contingent arrived in the country on Friday, according to a UN spokesperson in New York. They are the spearhead of what is to be 6 000 extra troops authorised by the UN Security Council to bolster the hard pressed UN mission.

More troops and equipment were expected to arrive on Saturday.

Once all the reinforcements are in, they will almost double the size of the Unmiss mission in the country to a total of up to 12 500 soldiers and 1 300 police.

That mission has so far been badly stretched as fighting has claimed thousands of lives since erupting 15 December.

The UN says more than 120 000 people have fled their homes, including 63 000 sheltering in UN peacekeeping bases, and neighbouring nations and world powers feared South Sudan was sliding into civil war.

Fighting in oil-rich zones

Since it started, the fighting has spread to half of South Sudan's 10 states, with the violence taking on an ethnic dimension, pitting members of Kiir's Dinka tribe against Machar's Nuer community and atrocities reported to have been carried out by both sides.

The warring forces are locked in fierce battles for control of several strategic oil-producing areas in the north of the country, which only won independence from Sudan in 2011.

Witnesses have reported heavy clashes in Malakal, capital of the oil-producing Upper Nile State, which both sides claimed to control.

A rebel spokesperson in the area, Moses Ruai Lat, told AFP that "the whole of Malakal" was now in the hands of Machar's loyalists.

But South Sudanese Defence Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk dismissed that claim as "disinformation" and asserted that Machar's loyalists "are no longer in Malakal - the town is under full government control".

Rival sides have also massed their forces around Bentiu, a key city in the oil-producing state of Unity as well as Bor, the capital of Jonglei state.

"Government forces are believed to have consolidated their positions in and around Bor," said a UN statement. "Anti-government forces remain in the vicinity and the situation remains tense."

UN aid workers only returned to Bor on Thursday to help displaced civilians, said the UN's Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"Following the intensive fighting for the town, there are reportedly a large number of bodies in the open near the base, which poses a risk for disease outbreaks," the office added.

The United Nations has rushed "critical assets" to the country, where it says it is struggling to cope with the dual role of protecting as well as feeding and sheltering terrified civilians.

Crude prices have edged higher because of the fighting as oil production, which accounts for more than 95% of South Sudan's economy, was dented by the violence and oil workers evacuated.

Read more on:    unmiss  |  un  |  ocha  |  riek machar  |  salva kiir  |  south sudan  |  east africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

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
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


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.


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.