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S. Sudan nearing civil war: Obama

By Agencies in Juba, South Sudan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-12-21 07:54

Fears of political conflict rise after 3 UN peacekeepers from India killed

US President Barack Obama warned that South Sudan stands at the "precipice" of renewed civil war amid spiraling violence, including an attack on a UN base that killed three Indian peacekeepers.

The United Nations Security Council readied emergency consultations on the fledgling nation on Friday amid growing fears that the country is sliding toward greater civil strife.

Obama, who announced he had deployed 45 troops to the violence-racked country on Wednesday to protect US personnel and interests, called for an immediate end to the violence.

"Recent fighting threatens to plunge South Sudan back into the dark days of its past," he said, without explicitly mentioning the 22-year civil war that left 2 million people dead in what was known as Sudan before the country split in two.

Recalling the hopes that accompanied South Sudan's entrance into the community of nations just two years ago, and Juba's progress in mitigating violence, Obama warned that "today, that future is at risk".

"South Sudan stands at the precipice," the president said, promising that the United States would remain Juba's "steady partner".

India's UN envoy Asoke Mukerji said three Indian peacekeepers were "targeted and killed" during Thursday's attack by ethnic Nuer youths on a base at Akobo in Jonglei state.

Attack condemned

China on Friday strongly condemned the attack and expressed condolences to the families of the three Indian peacekeepers who were killed.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said no deaths or injuries were reported among Chinese UN peacekeepers and called for the protection of all the UN peacekeepers.

"Chinese institutions in South Sudan have started to arrange evacuations, and our embassy will provide necessary assistance during the process," Hua said.

Beijing has required the South Sudan government to ensure the security of local Chinese institutions and citizens, whom it reminded them to step up precautions and stay in touch with the embassy, she added.

China National Petroleum Company, a main oil investor in South Sudan, is evacuating oil workers to the capital, Juba, a company official and state media said on Friday.

Xinhua said CNPC planned to evacuate 32 workers.

Other casualties are feared as the fate of more than 30 ethnic Dinka civilians sheltering at the base is not known, said UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.

Forty UN peacekeepers and six UN police advisers at the camp have been moved to safety, the spokesman said.

The attack came after troops loyal to fugitive former vice-president Riek Machar seized the town of Bor on Wednesday, army spokesman Philip Aguer said, as fighting continued in eastern Jonglei state.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has blamed the bloodshed on a coup bid by his perennial rival Machar, who called that claim a fabrication to cover up a purge by the government.

Alarm over conflict

Kiir has said he is ready to "sit down", but Machar, who was sacked by South Sudan's president in July, rejected the offer and called for the president's ouster.

About 450 people have been killed in the capital city since battles broke out on Sunday, including close to 100 soldiers, the army spokesman said.

The battles have raised concerns of ethnic conflict, as Kiir comes from the majority Dinka people and Machar from the Nuer.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay also has expressed concern over reports of "civilians killed in Juba based on their ethnicity".

But the government insists that the clashes are over power and politics, noting that both sides include leaders from various tribes.

Top ministers from four regional countries flew in Thursday to try to launch peace efforts.

Kenya's Foreign Minister Amina Mohammed said she was working with diplomats from Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda on the "regional issue".

All are members of a regional body, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, whose members played key roles in pushing forward the 2005 deal that ended Sudan's two-decade-long civil war with the south.


S. Sudan nearing civil war: Obama

(China Daily 12/21/2013 page8)

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