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December 2013 - Posts

Machar welcomes ceasefire, warns of Museveni’s role in South Sudan crisis

December 30, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s former vice-president Riek Machar has said his group welcomes regional leaders’ calls for cessation of hostilities, but warned that the involvement of the Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni in the conflict, could further fuel it.

“We are ready to ceasefire immediately to stop the bloodletting once the Government of Salva Kiir reciprocates”, partly reads the rebels statement signed by Hussein Mar Nyuot.

“We call upon the AU [African Union] and the IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] to restrain Ugandan Government from fuelling the conflict by sending troops and war planes in support of the Government of Salva Kiir,” it adds.

Machar’ response comes in the wake of Tuesday’s deadline for a ceasefire between his forces and those loyal to government as agreed upon by IGAD leaders at Friday’s summit held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Ugandan leader, on Monday, said the rebels were only given four days to comply with the agreement or face “defeat”.

“We gave him [Machar] four days and [agreed that] if he doesn’t [comply with the agreement], then we shall have to go for him. That is what we agreed on”, Museveni told reporters in Juba.

Museveni, a close ally of Kiir, also admitted that he sent Ugandan troops to “help restore hope” in South Sudan, confirming his military’s involvement in the conflict. He did not, however, elaborate on how the region intends to defeat a rebellion, which has quickly spread to the country’s key towns.

But Machar’s group, in a statement, warned that any aggression from the Ugandan army could compromise IGAD’s attempt to broker a peace deal between the conflicting parties.

“If not stopped, the UPDF’s aggression may compromise IGAD attempt to remain instrumental and neutral in bringing an end the crisis in South Sudan,”.

Machar said he was committed to peaceful means of resolving the conflict, which has taken an ethnic dimension since it started on 15 December in the capital, Juba.

He however expressed concerns about the safety and security of about nine senior politicians detained by the country’s leadership in connection with the violent incident, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives and left tens of thousands homeless.

“We are worried about the safety and security of our comrades detained by Salva Kiir. We call on AU and IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government to bring pressure to bear on the Government of Salva Kiir to release unconditionally all the eleven politicians detained in Juba”, further says the statement.

The former vice-president and his group maintained the incident had nothing to do with a coup attempt, describing government allegations as “not acceptable”.

Diplomats and the international community view dialogue as the only way of resolving the worst-ever outbreak of conflict in the country since its independence in July 2011.

It however remains unclear what dimensions the conflict would now take ahead of Tuesday’s ceasefire deadline given by regional leaders from the IGAD countries.


NCP’s presidential candidate for 2015 elections not determined yet, says party official

December 29, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) said that it has not yet determined its presidential candidate for the upcoming 2015 elections.

The NCP deputy secretary of information, Qubais Ahmed al-Mustafa, said in press statements on Sunday stressed that nomination is the responsibility of the NCP’s General Convention.

He further said that his party will nominate the candidate who would be agreed upon by the party members.

Al-Mustafa urged the opposition to participate in the upcoming elections and accused it of questioning transparency of the elections in order to avoid it, adding that his party is willing to allow international monitoring for the polls.

On Saturday, the NCP deputy chairman and official spokesperson, Ibrahim Ghandour, said that president, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, is the NCP’s sole presidential candidate in 2015.

Last March, Bashir reiterated his intention to step down at the end of his term in 2015 and said that Sudan is in need of “fresh blood”. But later he hinted that he could run again for president, saying that his re-election will be determined by the NCP’s General Convention and the Shura Council.

Bashir on Thursday pledged that elections will be held as scheduled and "will not be delayed even for one hour".

He said the ruling party would elect a new chairman soon adding this elected leader will be the NCP candidate for the presidential election.

Sudan’s opposition parties call for forming a transitional government and holding a national conference with the participation of rebel groups to discuss a peaceful solution for the conflicts in Darfur region, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states.

The interim government would organize general elections once a political agreement on constitutional matters is reached, inaugurating a new democratic regime. But the NCP rejects this proposal saying opposition parties must simply prepare for the 2015 elections and that rebels should sign first peace accords.

In a separate issue, Bashir said that the era of empowerment and politicization of civil service in Sudan has ended, announcing that the NCP is currently developing a comprehensive reform program and topping that list is civil service reform.

He pledged on Sunday to guarantee independence and impartiality of the civil service, saying that selection criterion for civil service positions would be based on free competition and professional competence only.

“Promotion would only be based on competence. The era of politicization and empowerment has gone”, he said

Bashir further added that civil servants wouldn’t be dismissed from work on the basis of their political affiliation, stressing that all people are equal.

He asserted that the country’s leadership is currently preoccupied with developing the right foundation for the civil service to ensure its independence.

Last week, the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) accused the Sudanese regime of being responsible for the destruction of the civil service.

It stressed that the NCP’s empowerment policies have destroyed the civil service and led to serious effects on the society, describing it as a major national and moral crime.

It also affirmed that civil service would only be reformed if the NCP pulled out its affiliates who gained their posts through the infamous “public interest” policy which targeted civil servants who aren’t loyal to the ruling party.

Ethiopia, Kenya leaders attempt to broker South Sudan peace deal

December 27, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) – Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn and Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, on Thursday arrived in Juba, South Sudan in an attempt to mediate between the government members of the ruling party and army who have defected.

The two leaders later on Thursday concluded their first round talks with President Salva Kiir, but the consultations, which are part of regional efforts to find a way out from the crises in South Sudan, are due to continue in the coming days.

Following the first talks, Ethiopian foreign minister, Tedros Adhanom, told reporters that the leaders condemned any attempt to unconstitutionally remove a democratically elected government. Any such actions are unacceptable, he said, adding that political disputes should be resolved through dialogue.

Although President Kiir accuses those he has arrested and those who have rebelled against him as staging coup, this is denied by those who oppose him.

The Ethiopian prime minister is believed to have visited the 11 senior members of the ruling SPLM who have been detained in Juba in connection with the alleged coup attempt.

"IGAD member states and the two leaders (of Ethiopia and Kenya) will do their level best to resolve the crises amicably" he said.

South Sudan’s information minister Michael Makuei Lueth said on Thursday that world leaders have urged for dialogue and immediate stoppage of violence in which thousands are feared killed.

The United States, Norway and Ethiopia are leading efforts to open peace talks between Kiir and his political rivals. Kiir said in a Christmas address that he is willing to engage in "dialogue" with all his opponents.

Leuth said the government has not yet established formal contact with Machar, who has been accused of leading what the government insists, was a failed coup plot. Machar, he said, was expected to first renounce rebellion.

“For us, we are not talking with him,” Lueth said, referring to Machar, whose whereabouts remains unknown.

Government troops are trying to retake control of Bentiu, the capital of oil-rich Unity state, from forces loyal to Machar. Fighting was reported overnight in Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile state, according to Lueth.

Upper Nile and Unity are the country’s key oil-producing states. South Sudan gets nearly 98 percent of its government budget from oil revenues.

Although the capital, Juba, is now calm, fighting appears to be spreading across the country, stretching the limits of humanitarian workers and aid agencies.

The Ethiopian Premier, who also is the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) and Chairperson of the East African regional body, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), is also expected - during his stay in Juba - to review the implementation of the peace proposal forwarded by IGAD foreign ministers.

"Given its peacekeeping and peacemaking role in the Horn of Africa region and being the current chair of the African Union, Ethiopia is believed to play a key role in bringing together the parties to the conflict in South Sudan," Ethiopia’s ministry of foreign affairs in a statement today.

The UN says some 1,000 people have died in violence however as conflict continues to escalate in different regions of the country; the death toll is expected to surpass the stated figure.

Over 60,000 people have sheltered at UN bases and more than 92,000 have fled their homes, seeking refuge from the ongoing fighting between the army and forces loyal to sacked vice-president Machar, who remains on the run.

Machar has announced that he is sending his negotiating team to Addis Ababa for peace talks with representatives of Kiir.

AU, IGAD URGE CEASEFIRE

Meanwhile, as East African leaders head to Juba to mediate peace talks, the African Union (AU) and the regional bloc, IGAD, on Thursday renewed a call for an immediate ceasefire in South Sudan as fears rise that the fighting could spark a civil war.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn of Ethiopia, and the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, have reiterated the AU’s and IGAD’s call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in South Sudan, said a joint statement, which further urged the two warring parties to engage in dialogue.

"The AU and IGAD are profoundly concerned by reports of the mobilization of tribal militias in South Sudan, which threaten to further escalate the conflict and transform it into an exceptionally destructive inter-ethnic violence that would put in danger the very existence of South Sudan."

The joint statement stressed a need from all South Sudanese stakeholders to fully be aware of these perils and their responsibilities to save their two-year-old state.

Dessalegn and Dlamini-Zuma urged both Kiir and Machar to act with a sense of patriotism and responsibility towards the entire community of South Sudan.

"The AU and IGAD reiterate the urgent imperative of an inclusive dialogue among all concerned stakeholders based on the rejection of the use of force, respect for human rights and dignity, the rule of law and constitutional legality, and their readiness to facilitate such a dialogue" the statement added.

After the talks with Kiir, the Ethiopian prime minister has left for Kenya for further consultation with IGAD members on ways of finding an all inclusive solution to the political crises in South Sudan.

In Nairobi, Ethiopian premier and other IGAD members are expected to consult on how a peace proposal presented by IGAD foreign ministers could be implemented by the two sides, ahead of Kiir and Machar’s representatives meeting in Addis Ababa.

PEACEKEEPING

The United Nations is investigating reports of mass killings. South Sudan’s top UN humanitarian official, Toby Lanzer, said on Monday that he believed the death toll has surpassed 1,000.

The UN Security Council voted unanimously to beef up its peacekeeping force in South Sudan on 24 December. It condemned targeted violence against civilians and ethnic communities and called for "an immediate cessation of hostilities and the immediate opening of a dialogue."

South Sudan peacefully broke away from Sudan in 2011 following a 2005 peace deal. Before that, the south fought decades of war with Sudan. The country, one of the world’s least developed, and has suffered from cyclical tribal clashes over cattle and land disputes.

The UN says that an additional $166 million is needed between now and March next year to save lives amid continuing violence.

South Sudan army claims to have retaken Bor from rebels

December 25, 2013 (RUMBEK) - South Sudan’s army recaptured Bor, the capital of Jonglei state on Tuesday which was seized by forces loyal to Maj-Gen Peter Gadet last week, the military’s spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Philip Aguer described the South Sudanese army’s (SPLA) mission to Jonglei as a "rescue assault" in order to free the thousands of people who have been forced to flee the area or seek hostage inside the UN base there.

Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, has been occupied by forces loyal to Gadet since Wednesday. Gadet was a commander in charge of the SPLA’s 8th Division in Jonglei state, which was is tasked with fighting a rebellion in the Jonglei’s Pibor county.

It is reportedly that Gadet broke away from the national army because of allegations that his tribe, the Nuer, were targetted in during fighting in Juba at the beginning of last week.

The government claimed that former Vice President Riek Machar, tried to stage a coup to oust President Kiir, in collaboration with 12 other senior figures from the ruling SPLM who have become critical of Kiir’s "dictatorial" tendencies.

Most of those politicians, who are from a range of ethnic groups, are being detained in Juba, where the security situation has stabilised.

The commander of the fourth division in Unity state, James Koang, defected on Friday after claiming the army had ordered for him to be killed. On Saturday he announced he was the new governor of the state, but Aguer said that the SPLA was "confident we will retake Unity state within hours."

There have also been reports of fighting in Upper Nile state, which like Unity hosts South Sudan’s oil fields.

Khartoum rules out amending 2014 budget over crisis in S. Sudan

December 24, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan has no intention of amending the 2014 draft budget to account for the possibility of oil flow disruption from South Sudan as a result of the clashes that affected production areas.

Sudan receives a fee for every barrel of oil exported through its territory from landlocked South Sudan which has no other way to transport the crude to international market.

In 2013, Sudan expects to receive around $500 million in transit fees since oil production was restarted in June after more than a year of suspension.

Sudan’s economy was hit hard since the southern part of the country declared independence in July 2011, taking with it about 75% of the country’s oil output.

However the transit fees are expected to plug part of the budget hole caused by the loss of oil reserves.

Babiker Mohamed Tom, member of Sudan’s parliamentary subcommittee on Finance and Economy, noted that the transit fees account for only 5% of the budget.

Should any issues stop the oil flow from South Sudan, then the government in Khartoum can cut spending to the maximum extent possible in order to adjust.

Forces loyal to deposed South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar has taken control of oil-rich Unity state.

In an exclusive interview on Monday, Machar revealed a plan to halt oil revenue remittances to Juba.

He said no money would go to the government in Juba, explaining that his group plans to divert oil revenues and deal directly with Sudan in implementing the September 2012 cooperation agreements, as they are in control of the concerned states.

“We will establish an extra account to which the oil revenues will be remitted for the economic interest of the people of South Sudan”, said Machar, adding that Juba will be isolated until his group takes over power from president Salva Kiir.

Daniel Howden from the Economist magazine said on Twitter last week that Chinese oil workers evacuated at Juba airport told him that "our [oil companies] HQ instructed us to close the wells (Unity State), the oil fields are shut down. All of them".

The India-based Economic Times said that New Delhi evacuated all of its oil employees from South Sudan including all 11 executives working on 40,000 barrels per day Greater Nile Oil Project and Block 5A.

Before departure, the last job the Indian executives did was to shut down the oilfields, the Economics Times reported. The rebels have not yet taken control of the oilfields but the move was done as a precaution.

ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) made all arrangements to evacuate its personnel as rebel forces loyal to Machar captured Unity state which housed most of the fields it was operating.

OVL owns 25 per cent stake in the Greater Nile Oil Project which produces about 40,000 barrels of oil per day and 24.125 per cent in Block 5A that produced 5,000 bpd.

Other partners in the blocks - China’s CNPC and Petronas of Malaysia too have decided to evacuate their officials from South Sudan, the source said.

South Sudanese officials insist however that oil production is proceeding normally.

South Sudan leaders fail to strike deal as violence continues

December 23 (JUBA) - South Sudanese president Salva Kiir Mayardit met with one of his main political opponents, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, on Sunday but the two failed to strike a deal to defuse the ongoing security situation.

President Kiir has stated his commitment to engage in unconditional dialogue to end the crisis but is yet to hold talks with his former deputy Riek Machar who is leading a rebellion against the government.

Machar, says Kiir wrongly accused him over conspiring with Nyandeng and others to stage a coup on 15 December following months of tension within South Sudan’s ruling party, with many disenfranchised senior member describing Kiir and increasingly dictatorial.

Since fighting erupted between members of the Presidential Guard a week ago the violence has spread from the capital, Juba, where some 500 people are believed to have been killed to other parts of the country.

There have been no official statements from the meeting but sources close to them told that it remains that Nyandeng demanded the release of political detainees. Senior members of the ruling SPLM have been arrested, accused of plotting the alleged failed coup.

Nyandeng is also believed to have called for the identification of those alleged to have targeted and attacked people on the basis of their tribe during the first few days of the conflict. She also called a comprehensive process to bring the sides together.

Riek Machar, who Kiir accused of leading the coup against him is now in open rebellion coordinating with splinter groups from the South Sudanese army (SPLA), who have taken control of parts of Jonglei and Unity state.

President Kiir, sources say, refused Nyandeng’s demands at the meeting which was also attended by the governor of Central Equatoria state, Clement Wani Konga.

Presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, told on Sunday that Kiir and Nyandeng had met in a "a closed door meeting", refusing to give any further details.

In statement to journalists shortly after the meeting, Nyandeng, did not disclose what was discussed, saying it was the “beginning of dialogue” without elaborating.

The UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and other international leaders, have demanded that South Sudan’s political and military leaders immediately end all hostilities and stop targeted attacks against civilians.

“I call on President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and opposition political leaders, including former Vice President Riek Machar, to come to the table to find a political way out of this crisis," he said.

East African regional block IGAD has sent a delegation of ministers and senior officials to try and help the two sides find a negotiated solution. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has been asked by the US to lead international efforts to resolve the conlfict before it escalates further.

Sudan’s Bashir expresses concern over unrest in neighbouring countries

December 23, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir said he is concerned about events in neighboring states and affirmed that Khartoum will deal with it in a positive manner in pursuit of peace.

At a ceremony organized by the presidency with the participation of current and previous cabinet members, Bashir specifically named South Sudan, Central African Republic and Libya as places where sequence of events is a cause for worry in Khartoum.

Chadian president Idriss Deby is expected to arrive in Khartoum on Monday for discussions on regional developments mentioned by Bashir.

Bashir also said that next year will be a one of peace and moving to providing development and services to citizens in all parts of the country.

He also praised the victories of the Sudanese army in conflict zones.

The Sudanese president declared that all regions of the eastern mountains in South Kordofan state have become free from the insurgency and rebels.

This week the army claimed that it has achieved a series of victories against the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) in South Kordofan state as part of the military campaign announced last month to crush rebellion.

Bashir also addressed the cabinet reshuffle made this month saying it was meant to bring young faces to continue carrying the message ably and consistently.

He said that he will remain in touch outgoing cabinet members to get their views adding that they were engineers of change.

Earlier this month president Bashir announced cabinet shakeup that saw the departure of several long-time NCP figures from their governmental posts including 1st VP Ali Osman Taha, presidential assistant and NCP Vice chairman Nafie Ali Nafie and Oil minister Awad al-Jaz.

US aircraft attacked, fighting escalates in Jonglei, four soldiers injured

Dec 21, 2013 (Updated) – Four US service personnel on an evacuation mission have been wounded after their aircraft were shot at in South Sudan, the US military says.

The three CV-22 Ospreys were attacked as they approached Bor, which is occupied by forces loyal to the former Vice-President Riek Machar, it added.

South Sudan has been in turmoil since President Salva Kiir accused Mr Machar a week ago of attempting a coup.

Mr Machar told the BBC the rebels were under his control.

He was in control of large parts of the country, he said, and troops loyal to him had also seized control of Unity, a state on the border with Sudan which produces much of the country's oil.

He added that he was prepared to negotiate with the government if politicians arrested earlier this week were released.

At least 500 people have been killed since the fighting began.

Ugandan involvement

The US military said the Ospreys, aircraft which can fly both like helicopters and like planes, were involved in the evacuation of US citizens from Bor.

A statement said all three aircraft were damaged by small arms fire by unknown forces as they approached the town.

The aircraft returned to Uganda's Entebbe airport, from where the wounded service personnel were transferred onto a US Air Force C-17 transport aircraft and taken on to Nairobi, Kenya, it added.

All four were treated and are in a stable condition, the statement said.

SPLA soldiers patrol Juba. 20 Dec 2013
Government troops are patrolling the capital, Juba

Uganda is one of a number of other countries trying to evacuate their citizens from South Sudan.

It has sent troops to take part in the operation. They will also try to secure the capital Juba, just 75km (50 miles) from the border, reports say.

However, Uganda denied reports that it has been helping the South Sudanese army by bombing Mr Machar's forces in eastern Jonglei state, of which Bor is the capital.

Commander 'defects'

The army is trying to retake Bor. Jonglei is one of the most volatile regions in the country.

Troops backed by helicopter gunships were advancing on the town, army spokesman Philip Aguer told the French AFP news agency.

In Unity state, a major oil-producing region, a senior commander, General James Koang, was reported to have defected to Mr Machar's forces.

Mr Machar said General Koang was now in control of the state, but the military, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), says he defected alone and did not take any forces with him.

A resident in Unity state told the BBC that Gen Koang announced on local radio he had joined Mr Machar's rebellion.

On Friday African mediators held talks with Mr Kiir in an attempt to avert civil war.

The talks are set to continue and US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was sending a special envoy, Ambassador Donald Booth, to help foster dialogue.

President Kiir, a member of the majority Dinka ethnic group, sacked Mr Machar, who is from the Nuer community, in July.

He said that last Sunday night uniformed personnel opened fire at a meeting of the governing party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Violence then broke out in Juba and has since spread across the country, pitting gangs of Nuer and Dinka against each other.

The whereabouts of Mr Machar, who has denied trying to stage a coup, remain unknown.

Worst violence

Thousands of civilians have flocked to UN compounds seeking shelter from the unrest.

The UN on Friday condemned an attack on its compound in Akobo, Jonglei state, a day earlier in which two Indian peacekeepers and at least 11 civilians were killed.

Jonglei state has seen some of the worst violence since South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011, with hundreds killed in periodic clashes between rival heavily-armed ethnic militias sparked by cattle-rustling.

Obama warns that South Sudan fighting could bring back “dark days”

December 20, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – The United States president Barack Obama issued a statement on Thursday night warning against a grim scenario that could unfold in South Sudan as a result of the ongoing fighting in several states of the world’s newest country.

What began as clashes between different units of South Sudan’s presidential guard in Juba last Sunday, spread to other key places including the states of Jonglei and Unity.

South Sudan president Salva Kiir appeared on Monday to accuse his former deputy Riek Machar and other leading ex-officials of staging a failed coup attempt.

The government arrested ten former ministers and issued an arrest warrant for Machar, former ruling party Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) Secretary General Pagan Amum and ex-governor of Unity state Taban Deng among others.

Machar denied plotting a coup and accused Kiir of using the clashes to get rid of his political opponents. He also rejected Kiir’s offer to sit down for talks unless the latter agrees to step down first.

Observers say that the clashes are becoming increasingly tribal in nature with Nuer SPLA units defecting in show of support to Machar and attacking Dinka troops that are generally supportive of Kiir.

On Wednesday, the SPLA announced that it lost control of Jonglei state capital of Bor after forces loyal to General Peter Gatdet Yak overran military bases the day before.

Heavy fighting broke out also in Unity state capital of Bentiu but it is unclear who is in control amid conflicting accounts.

The United Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said yesterday that tens of thousands of civilians have sought refuge at their bases in Juba, Bor and Bentiu.

Juba put the death toll at 500 but it is likely that it will be revised higher. The Indian ambassador at the UN said that three of its peacekeepers were killed in Jonglei.

The US has advised its citizens to depart South Sudan immediately and suspended operations at its embassy in Juba. Three planes were sent to evacuate its personnel and private citizens.

In his statement today, Obama reminded the Southern Sudanese of the sacrifices they made to establish their new country.

“In 2011, millions of South Sudanese voted to forge a new nation, founded on the promise of a more peaceful and prosperous future for all of South Sudan’s people. In recent years, against great odds, South Sudan has made great progress toward breaking the cycle of violence that characterized much of its history”.

“Today, that future is at risk. South Sudan stands at the precipice. Recent fighting threatens to plunge South Sudan back into the dark days of its past”.

Obama said that South Sudan “has a choice”.

“Its leaders can end the violence and work to resolve tensions peacefully and democratically. Fighting to settle political scores or to destabilize the government must stop immediately. Inflammatory rhetoric and targeted violence must cease. All sides must listen to the wise counsel of their neighbors, commit to dialogue and take immediate steps to urge calm and support reconciliation. South Sudan’s leaders must recognize that compromise with one’s political enemy is difficult; but recovering from unchecked violence and unleashed hatred will prove much harder”

“Too much blood has been spilled and too many lives have been lost to allow South Sudan’s moment of hope and opportunity to slip from its grasp. Now is the time for South Sudan’s leaders to show courage and leadership, to reaffirm their commitment to peace, to unity, and to a better future for their people. The United States will remain a steady partner of the South Sudanese people as they seek the security and prosperity they deserve”.

On Wednesday the UN Security Council (UNSC) urged all parties "to immediately cease hostilities, exercise restraint and refrain from violence and other actions that could exacerbate tensions".

They also called on Juba to engage in dialogue with its opponents and to resolve differences peacefully in order to prevent any spread of the current violence.

South Sudan army says Bor fell into rebel hands

December 19, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s army (SPLA) acknowledged that it is “not in control of Bor” after forces loyal to Gen. Peter Gatdet Yak overran military bases on Tuesday and took over the town Wednesday evening.

SPLA spokesperson Col. Philip Aguer said the national army is meeting to set the next move in light of the development amid growing international concern for the humanitarian situation in Jongeli’s state capital.

Earlier today, South Sudan army said that Gen. Gadet, who was a commander in charge of the SPLA’s 8th Division in Jonglei state, has defected from its ranks.

He reportedly broke off from the national army ranks on allegations that his tribe, the Nuer, have been targeted in the current tension.

Over the weekend clashes erupted in Juba between among units of the presidential guards from competing tribes of Dinka and Nuer. The fighting spread throughout the city which lead to the death of at least 500 people with hundreds more injured.

On Monday, Kiir appeared on TV to declare that his former deputy Riek Machar, who hails from the Nuer tribe, staged a coup attempt along with other prominent South Sudanese officials who were part of the government and are leading figures in the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Observers and independent analysts have expressed fears that Gadet’s defection could complicate the security situation in Jonglei where government forces have been battling to exert full control in areas where rebel David Yau has remained active since 2012.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said in a news release today that the "security conditions in the Jonglei State capital of Bor have deteriorated significantly during the course of the day".

"UNMISS has received reports that heavy fighting erupted in the city in the wee hours of this morning and continued for four hours. The violence triggered an exodus of civilians out of Bor, and thousands have sought shelter at the Mission’s compound on the southeastern outskirts of the city" the statement said.

"As is the case in Juba, UNMISS is providing water, sanitation facilities and medical care to civilians who have taken refuge in its Bor compound. A limited number of tents have been erected to house some of these civilians. Late this afternoon, UNMISS staff members reported that heavy weapons fire erupted in a neighborhood of Bor about a kilometer away from the Mission’s compound".

In Bor, residents fled to nearby bushes and swampy areas across the Nile River.

One resident, still hiding within the town, told S.T by phone on Thursday that “a huge building is burning in the market” raising possibility of looting and destruction in Bor trader center of Maror.

Jonglei acting governor John Kong Nyuon, who arrived to Bor Wednesday evening from Juba, is said to be taking refuge in UNMISS camp while a number of senior state officials have reportedly fled the town with civilians.

South Sudan Red Cross said at least 19 bodies were found on Wednesday bringing the death toll to 22 when three children who perished in a boat capsizing in Nile River are included.

South Sudan leader says ready for dialogue with ex-VP Machar

December 19, 2013 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese President Salva Kiir is ready for dialogue with his former deputy, Riek Machar whom he accused of masterminding Sunday’s coup attempt in the capital, Juba.

Fleeing ongoing violence, civilians seek shelter at UNMISS compound - Juba City - South Sudan
   civilians seek shelter at UN

We are open for dialogue with anyone who is willing,” Kiir told reporters in Juba, adding, raising hope for peaceful resolution to the volatile situation.

The president, on Monday, blamed the skirmishes on forces allegedly loyal Machar, which the latter denied in an exclusive interview.

“There was no coup. What took place in Juba was a misunderstanding between presidential guards within their division. It was not a coup attempt. I have no connection with or knowledge of any coup attempt”, said Machar.

He claimed that no official from the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) had any connection with the alleged coup.

The United Nations Secretary General, in a phone interview with Kiir, expressed deep concerns about the current situation in South Sudan

“I spoke to President Salva Kiir yesterday morning, urging him to do everything possible he can to end the violence and to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law”, Ban Ki Moon said in a statement.

“Am impressed on him the need to resume dialogue with the political opposition”, he added, in reference to reports that Kiir was willing to talk with his opponents.

Hilde Johnson, the special representative of the Secretary General also called for urgent political dialogue in the country.

“This is a political crisis, and urgently needs to be dealt with through political dialogue. There is a risk of this violence spreading to other states, and we have already seen some signs of this,” she said.

It is essential to protect the human rights of all those who are detained, Johnson stressed in a statement.

The UN Mission in South Sudan said it has received reports of many people being killed and injured, with nearly 20,000 people reportedly displaced.

"We are in the process of verifying the reports", the UN said, raising possible fears of more displaced people in its Jonglei state.

EXCLUSIVE: South Sudan ex-VP denies coup attempt, labels Kiir ‘illegal president’

December 18, 2013 (LONDON) – South Sudan’s former vice president, Riek Machar, has categorically denied any involvement in an alleged coup attempt in the capital, Juba, saying it was another undemocratic attempt by president Salva Kiir to get rid of his political critics in the party and government.

Speaking exclusively to today for the first time since violence erupted on Sunday, Machar said the events were a misunderstanding between the presidential guards.

“There was no coup. What took place in Juba was a misunderstanding between presidential guards within their division. It was not a coup attempt. I have no connection with or knowledge of any coup attempt”, said Machar.

He claimed that no official from the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) had any connection with the alleged coup.

At a press conference held on Monday, Kiir accused Machar of involvement in Sunday’s attack on a military base in Juba.

Unusually clad in full military attire, the president said a group of soldiers allied to Machar and his group attacked the army (SPLA) headquarters near Juba University.

“These attacks continued until this morning” (Monday), added Kiir, flanked by his deputy, James Wani Igga, and defence minister Koul Manyang Juuk.

The South Sudanese leader described Machar as a “prophet of doom [who] continues to persistently pursue his actions of the past”, referring to the 1991 split in which the latter defected from the then rebel movement during its long civil war with Sudan.

“However, I would like to inform you, at the outset, that your government is in full control of the security situation in Juba”, the president said.

He also maintained that the SPLM is fully committed to the peaceful and democratic transfer of power, vowing not to allow political power to be transferred through violence.

CALLS FOR REFORM

However, the former vice-president insists Kiir is simply looking for a way to falsely accuse his detractors in order to frustrate the democratic processes, which Machar and his group has persistently been calling for within the party.

Machar told S.T. that Kiir was continuing to violate the constitution and was “no longer a legal president”.

“What we wanted was to democratically transform the SPLM, but Salva Kiir wanted to use the alleged coup attempt in order to get rid of us to control the government and the SPLM. We don’t want him the president of South Sudan anymore”, he said, without elaborating further on his next move.

Machar claims that he and a number of his colleagues, who have been detained in connection with the alleged coup plot, are being unfairly victimised.

Machar also condemned Kiir’s actions for encouraging or condoning the recent massacres targeting one ethnic group in the nation’s capital in the last three days.

On Tuesday, the government announced it was seeking the arrest of Machar and other officials, including suspended SPLM secretary-general Pagan Amum, former Unity governor Taban Deng, as well as former ministers Alfred Lado Gore and Adwok Nyaba.

At least 10 South Sudanese officials, mainly ex-ministers, have been arrested in connection with what the government described a failed “coup attempt” in the capital.

S. Sudan arrests 10 senior officials over failed “coup attempt”

December 17, 2013 (JUBA) – At least 10 South Sudanese officials, mainly ex-ministers, have been arrested in connection with what government says was a failed “coup attempt” in the capital, Juba.

Those arrested, the government website reported, include former ministers Oyay Deng Ajak, Gier Chuang Aluong, Majak D’ Agot, John Luk Jok, Cirino Hiteng, Kosti Manibe, Deng Alor and Madut Biar.

Also detained, the government spokesperson said, are former Lakes state governor, Chol Tong Mayay and ex-ambassador Ezekiel Lul.

“Those who are still at large will be apprehended. According to our sources, some of them have moved out of Juba town towards the Terekeka areas, north of the capital Juba, probably with the intention of moving towards the base of Dr. Riek [Machar]”, Michael Makuei told a media briefing.

“Whether they will reach there is a situation that we will wait to see”.

He said five of those wanted, including Machar, remain at large. Others are former ministers, Alfred Ladu Gore, Pagan Amum, Adwok Nyaba and the ex-Unity state governor, Taban Deng Gai.

Meanwhile, the government urged the public to desist from statements that seem to imply the violent incident was a tribal rather matter.

South Sudan president, Salva Kiir says ex-VP Machar planned attack, declares curfew in Juba

December 16, 2013 (JUBA) –  South Sudan president, Salva Kiir has accused his former vice-president of alleged involvement Sunday’s attack on the military headquarters in the country’s capital, Juba.

Sporadic gunfire, which started Sunday evening rocked the capital and continued this morning, sending residents into panic.

Clad in full military attire, however, Kiir said an attack “by a group of soldiers allied to the former vice-president Dr Riek Machar and his group” occurred at the army headquarters near Juba University.

“These attacks continued until this morning”, the president, flanked by his deputy, James Wani Igga told the press in Juba.

" I can however tell you that my government is now in full control of the situation", added Kiir, also commander in chief of the national army (SPLA).

Unconfirmed reports say residence within Juba and its outskirts were fleeing the capital, but these could not be independently verified.

CURFEW IN JUBA

Meanwhile, the South Sudanese leader has announced a dust-to-dawn curfew in Juba, saying justice would prevail on those were behind the attack.

"The curfew will start from 6pm to 6am local time in Juba, Kiir said, adding "Justice will prevail and those attackers are being pursued".

HUNDREDS CAMP AT UNMISS

Hundreds of civilians, the United Nations said, have sought refuge in their compound adjacent to the country’s airport and at their base in Jebel Kujur area. Most of them are women and children.

“While UNMISS is not a humanitarian operator, and our mandate is to protect civilians, basic water supplies and medical treatment are being provided. We hope the security situation in Juba will quickly normalize to enable the civilians to return very soon to their residential areas,” it said in a statement.

To that end, UNMISS calls on all parties to show continued calm and restraint, it added and dismissed any suggestion that it was harbouring any key political or military figures linked to the incident.

South Sudan’s presidential guards clash in Juba


December 16, 2013 (JUBA) – Military clashes have occurred between the presidential guards of South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir in the capital, Juba.

The clashes occurred from about 10pm last night in the old military barracks inside the capital and continued intensively for about one hour before one group was expelled.

Sporadic gunfire rocked the new nation’s capital over night sending residents into a state of panic as movements were controlled by the military.

The state-owned SSTV is currently off air while Juba airport remains closed. Juba residents also claim they have found it hard to make telephone calls since morning.

Military sources said the clashes between the Tiger special force occurred when one group predominantly of Nuer was suspicious in the deployments of the other group dominated by the Dinka, further turning the arguments into deadly clashes.

The source said the group predominantly of Nuer have expelled their colleagues predominantly of Dinka, composed mostly of those who were recently graduated by president Kiir at Luri bridge and deployed at the old military barracks.

The situation is now calm, but tense amidst fears that it may escalate as soldiers have been deploying in various strategic locations. No casualties have been reported so far.

Eyewitnesses told that the fighting was fierce as those chased out of the barracks withdrew into the rest of the city.

ARMY URGES CALM

The South Sudan’s army, meanwhile, warned residents of the capital, Juba, to remain in their homes after gun shoots and explosions were heard overnight.

"We request people to remains in their residences until we establish the actual cause of the shootings", Phillip Aguer, the SPLA’s spokesperson told.

The army, Aguer said, regrets the unfortunate incident which has left the Juba population in a state of panic, but gave no further details on casualties involved.

UN, US MISSION CONCERNED

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan expressed deep concerns over the incident that broke out in the country’s capital, calling for calm among parties involved.

"As the Special Representative of the Secretary General, I urge all parties in the fighting to cease hostilities immediately and exercise restraint. I have been in touch regularly with the key leaders, including at the highest levels to call for calm," Hilde Johnson said in a statement issued Monday.

UNMISS will continue to monitor events closely and provide updates as developments warrant, she added.

Meanwhile, the United States embassy in Juba advised its citizens in the country to exercise extra caution at all times.

"The U.S. Embassy will continue to closely monitor the security environment in South Sudan, with particular attention to Juba city and its immediate surroundings, and will advise U.S. citizens further if the security situation changes", it said in a statement.

In 2006, a similar incident occurred when part of the military mutinied over unpaid salaries prompting fierce battle between forces loyal to the establishment and the mutineers at a military barracks at Gumbo, a few kilometers out of Juba town.

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