Oil wells seized

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AGEN­CIES in Juba, South Su­dan

Rebels in South Su­dan seize oil wells and cap­ture the cap­i­tal of the main oil-pro­duc­ing re­gion, a spokesman for the group claims.

South Su­danese rebels loyal to for­mer vi­cepres­i­dent Riek Machar said on Fri­day they have cap­tured the key oil town of Malakal from gov­ern­ment forces af­ter three days of fierce fight­ing, as African lead­ers held talks to try to avert a civil war.

Mean­while, the gov­ern­ment claimed to be in full con­trol of the town, which is the cap­i­tal of Up­per Nile State in the north­east and one of South Su­dan’s main oil-pro­duc­ing ar­eas.

“The whole of Malakal is un­der the con­trol of our forces. It was cleared yes­ter­day evening,” said Moses Ruai Lat, spokesman for the Unity State Mil­i­tary In­terim Gov­ern­ment, which com­prises the rebels loyal to Machar and op­posed to Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir.

“All those forces that are loyal to the pres­i­dent have been cleared, and the for­mer gov­er­nor of Up­per Nile, Si­mon Kun Poch, is on the run,” he told AFP.

But South Su­danese De­fense Min­is­ter Kuol Manyang Juuk re­ferred to the state­ment as “dis­in­for­ma­tion”.

Re­gional lead­ers in the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Au­thor­ity on De­vel­op­ment bloc met in the Kenyan cap­i­tal of Nairobi on Fri­day to dis­cuss South Su­dan. That sum­mit was ex­pected to pro­duce a road map for peace talks be­tween Kiir and Machar.

Kenyan Pres­i­dent Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Min­is­ter Haile­mariam De­salegn met with Kiir on Thurs­day in South Su­dan’s cap­i­tal.

“South Su­dan is a young na­tion that should be spared un­nec­es­sary dis­trac­tions in its de­vel­op­ment agenda. Use wis­dom and stop the loss of in­no­cent lives,” Kenyatta said.

Ethiopian For­eign Min­is­ter Te­dros Ad­hanom called the talks “very con­struc­tive and very can­did”. It was not clear whether the del­e­ga­tion also met with rebel leader Machar, who was fired by Kiir in July.

Vi­o­lence erupted in Juba on Dec 15 and quickly spread, di­vid­ing the land­locked coun­try of 10.8 mil­lion along eth­nic lines be­tween the Nuer — Machar’s peo­ple — and the Dinka, to whom Kiir be­longs.

The head of the UN mis­sion in Su­dan said well over 1,000 peo­ple have been killed.

Eth­nic di­vide

Fight­ing has now spread, en­com­pass­ing half of South Su­dan’s 10 states.

More than 120,000 peo­ple have been dis­placed by the con­tin­u­ing vi­o­lence, the United Na­tions said.

Kiir and Machar say their dis­agree­ment is po­lit­i­cal. But many civil­ians seek­ing safety at the UN bases say that eth­nic blood­let­ting has left them par­a­lyzed with fear.

Lina Yo­ha­nis, a 22- year- old mother of two, said her sis­ter had been killed by sol­diers who tar­geted her be­cause she was a Nuer. “They poured fuel on her and burned her,” Yo­ha­nis said at the sprawl­ing UN com­pound in Juba.

With tears rolling down her cheeks, she added, “The pol­i­tics of South Su­dan are be­com­ing pol­i­tics of trib­al­ism.”

Ear­lier in the week, a UN hu­man rights body said it had found a mass grave in Ben­tiu, cap­i­tal of Unity state, con­tain­ing what were be­lieved to be bod­ies of Dinka sol­diers.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil agreed on Tues­day to nearly dou­ble the size of its mis­sion known as UN­MISS, al­low­ing for up to 12,500 sol­diers and 1,300 po­lice of­fi­cers, af­ter the vi­o­lence raged out of con­trol.

The UN said it hoped within the next 48 hours to be­gin re­ceiv­ing crit­i­cal re­in­force­ments of mil­i­tary hard­ware and per­son­nel for its over­stretched peace­keep­ing mis­sion.

Western pow­ers and east African states, ea­ger to pre­vent more chaos in the frag­ile re­gion, have not been able to get Kiir to sit down with Machar, whose where­abouts are un­known.

Machar told Reuters on Mon­day he was “in the bush”.

SAMIR BOL / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A South Su­danese woman sits with a child on Wed­nes­day at the main hos­pi­tal in Bor, which troops loyal to Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir re­port­edly re­cap­tured from rebel forces.

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