JOURNEY TO SAFETY
Obama warns against any attempt to seize power by military force
Chinese workers evacuated from South Sudan arrive in Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday, as South Sudan is on the brink of a civil war. Hundreds of people have been killed in a week of fighting, which has spread from the capital Juba to oil fields farther north.
World leaders have stepped up calls for South Sudan’s feuding politicians to end fighting that has pushed the country to the brink of civil war, after four US servicemen were wounded when their aircraft came under fire.
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon called on Sunday for an end to violence in South Sudan, where the death toll is mounting from fighting between forces loyal to the president and his sacked deputy.
“I demand that all political, military and militia leaders stop hostilities and end the violence against the civilians,” Ban said.
He called on President Salva Kiir and his rival, former vicepresident Riek Machar, to “find a political way out of this crisis” and order their followers to lay down their arms.
Earlier, US President Barack Obama warned against a coup attempt, in a statement that came after four US servicemen were wounded when the aircraft they were flying in came under fire on their way to help evacuate US citizens in South Sudan.
Three CV-22 Osprey aircraft were damaged in the attack, forcing them to divert to Uganda. The wounded were then flown to Nairobi for medical treatment and are now in “stable condition”, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The United States has also deployed 45 combat-equipped troops to South Sudan to protect its embassy and personnel.
“Any effort to seize power through the use of military force will result in the end of longstanding support from the United States and the international community,” the White House said on Saturday.
Obama stressed that South Sudanese leaders “have a responsibility to support our efforts to secure American personnel and citizens in Juba and Bor”, the capital and a rebel-held flashpoint town.
The attack underlined the increasingly dangerous situation in South Sudan, where at least one UN base has also come under attack in recent days — with the deaths of two Indian peacekeepers and possibly dozens of civilians.
Chinese companies in the country have also been evacuating personnel.
Zhang Lei, managing director of Blue Star Construction Co (South Sudan), said the company is moving its 20 Chinese employees to Kampala, the capital of Uganda.
“We are trying to get air tickets but it’s quite difficult as many foreigners are also leaving the country,” he said.
“Although the security in Juba is still acceptable, we have no idea where the situation is leading.”
OIL FLOW ‘UNAFFECTED’
The flow of oil from South Sudan through northern pipelines has been unaffected by a week of fighting on southern soil, Juba’s ambassador to Khartoum said on Sunday.
“Nothing happened to the oil,” Ambassador Mayen Dut Wol said.
Oil is “flowing peacefully”, the ambassador said, as envoys from the United States and Nigeria prepared to fly into the South as part of efforts to avert allout civil war.
Zhang said the workers would not go far as they have several construction projects underway in South Sudan, and he does not think the situation in the country will deteriorate to civil war.
The Chinese embassy in Juba said there are more than 2,300 Chinese working in South Sudan and there has been no decision to evacuate them, but the embassy has issued warnings and helped Chinese in conflict zones move to safer regions.
Chinese National Petroleum Corporation said approximately 200 Chinese employees returned to China via Nairobi on two chartered airplanes on Sunday, but 500 staff remain working in South Sudan.
A diplomat who asked to remain anonymous said around 600 Chinese nationals have left South Sudan since the escalation of the conflict in mid-December, but many of those movements were due to regular work shifts and annual leave.
Oil production accounts for more than 95 percent of the country’s fledgling economy.
The United States, Britain, Kenya and Uganda also have been evacuating their nationals.
Soldiers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army jump from a vehicle in Juba, South Sudan, on Sunday.