UN warns of in­creas­ing vi­o­lence as ten­sions rise in South Su­dan Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir ru­mored dead

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The UN warned yes­ter­day of in­creas­ing vi­o­lence in parts of South Su­dan, as the govern­ment was forced to pub­licly dis­miss ru­mors of Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir’s death to quell rising ten­sions.

“The United Na­tions Mis­sion in South Su­dan (UNMISS) is ex­tremely con­cerned over in­creased re­ports of vi­o­lence and armed con­flict in var­i­ous parts of the coun­try in the last few weeks,” a state­ment said, men­tion­ing fight­ing in the north­ern Unity State and the south­ern Equa­to­rias.

The UN said it was be­ing de­nied ac­cess to strife-hit parts of the coun­try and “con­demns in no un­cer­tain terms these acts of vi­o­lence and at­tacks against non-com­bat­ant civil­ians.” UNMISS also said it had been de­nied ac­cess to an area where around 21 civil­ians were re­port­edly killed in an am­bush on the road be­tween Juba and the south­ern city of Yei over the week­end.

Also on Wed­nes­day in­for­ma­tion min­is­ter Michael Makuei held a press con­fer­ence to deny ru­mors of Kiir’s death that had cir­cu­lated in re­cent days, trig­ger­ing fear and ten­sion in the cap­i­tal Juba. “This is a mere lie, there is noth­ing as such, Salva Kiir has not even been sick,” said Makuei, slam­ming “wild ru­mors” he said aimed to di­vide the peo­ple of South Su­dan.

Later in the day Kiir, 65, was driven about town in the back of a pickup to prove he was alive. In re­cent days res­i­dents of Juba had re­ported a higher than usual pres­ence of sol­diers on the streets, as the ru­mors co­in­cided with mount­ing con­cerns over an uptick in vi­o­lence in the trou­bled na­tion.

“We are scared of the sit­u­a­tion. You can­not know what is ex­actly hap­pen­ing,” said Moses Modi, a res­i­dent of Juba who was stay­ing in his house over se­cu­rity fears. Another Juba res­i­dent, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, re­ported that some schools had sent pupils back home.

‘On the edge of a precipice’

South Su­dan, which gained in­de­pen­dence in July 2011, de­scended into war just two and a half years later when Kiir in De­cem­ber 2013 ac­cused his for­mer deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

Nu­mer­ous attempts to shore up a frag­ile truce failed, and in a ma­jor set­back to peace ef­forts, fierce clashes erupted in Juba on July 8 this year be­tween Kiir’s guards and troops loyal to Machar. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has ex­pressed deep con­cerns over a spread in vi­o­lence since the July clashes, which pushed the num­ber of refugees from the war-scarred na­tion past the one-mil­lion mark, ac­cord­ing to the UNHCR.

In a fur­ther blow to peace hopes, Machar last month urged “a pop­u­lar armed re­sis­tance” against his ri­val’s govern­ment. Machar, who fled to Khar­toum in the July fight­ing, on Wed­nes­day left for South Africa for med­i­cal tests.

An in­flu­en­tial group of South Su­danese politi­cians known as the ‘for­mer de­tainees’ af­ter their ar­rest when war broke out in 2013, added their voices to the many rais­ing con­cerns.

They said they were “greatly dis­turbed by the re­cent in­crease of war and vi­o­lent con­flict all over agin; its ever deep­en­ing in­ten­sity and level of bru­tal­ity; an ap­par­ently all-per­va­sive and creep­ing sense of re­sent­ment and hate”. “The coun­try is on the edge of a precipice,” the group said. —AFP

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