Lead­ers side with Kiir in Juba fight­ing

Neigh­bours de­mand talks and end to cri­sis

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

NAIROBI AND JUBA: South Su­dan’s neigh­bours have said they would not ac­cept any vi­o­lent over­throw of Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir’s demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment af­ter al­most two weeks of clashes with troops loyal to his for­mer deputy.

Western pow­ers and African gov­ern­ments fear the clashes could lead to an all-out eth­nic- based civil war that would pose a dan­ger to a frag­ile re­gion with por­ous bor­ders.

Speak­ing yes­ter­day at an ex­tra­or­di­nary heads of state meet­ing held in Nairobi by the east African body, In­ter Gov­ern­men­tal Au­thor­ity on De­vel­op­ment (Igad), Kenyan Pres­i­dent Uhuru Kenyatta urged Kiir and ex-vice pres­i­dent Riek Machar to seize “the small win­dow of op­por­tu­nity” and start peace talks.

“Let it be known that we in Igad will not ac­cept the un­con­sti­tu­tional over­throw of a duly and demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment in South Su­dan. Vi­o­lence has never pro­vided op­ti­mum so­lu­tions,” Kenyatta said.

Machar, who served as vi­cepres­i­dent of South Su­dan un­til Kiir sacked him in July, has ac­cepted peace talks on con­di­tion that his de­tained po­lit­i­cal al­lies are re­leased – a de­mand Kiir so far has shown no in­ten­tion of meet­ing.

Kenyatta said South Su­dan and re­gional gov­ern­ments had “no time” to find a so­lu­tion to what he called a po­lit­i­cal prob­lem within the rul­ing Su­dan Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment (SPLM) party which had de­gen­er­ated into a vi­o­lent con­fronta­tion that risked tak­ing “a dire eth­nic di­rec­tion”.

Kenyatta said a mil­i­tary op­tion had lit­tle chance of suc­ceed­ing.

“The present cri­sis, if not con­tained, will pro­duce mil­lions of in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons and refugees and set back this re­gion im­mea­sur­ably,” Kenyatta told the re­gional lead­ers.

Mean­while, gov­ern­ment forces and rebels in South Su­dan bat­tled for con­trol of a key oil town.

Wit­nesses re­ported heavy fight­ing in Malakal, cap­i­tal of the oil-pro­duc­ing Up­per Nile State, and both gov­ern­ment forces al­lied to Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir and rebels loyal to for­mer vice- pres­i­dent Riek Machar in­sisted they were in con­trol af­ter days of street bat­tles.

The UN an­nounced ex­tra troops and “crit­i­cal as­sets” like he­li­copters would be on the ground by Satur­day.

UN of­fi­cials have ad­mit­ted to be­ing badly over­stretched and un­able to cope with the dual role of pro­tect­ing as well as feed­ing and shel­ter­ing thou­sands of ter­ri­fied civil­ians.

The fight­ing in South Su­dan started on De­cem­ber 15 af­ter Kiir ac­cused Machar of at­tempt­ing a coup.

Machar de­nied this, and said the pres­i­dent was ex­ploit­ing a clash be­tween mem­bers of the army as a pre­text to carry out a purge.

Fight­ing has since spread to half of South Su­dan’s 10 states, with the vi­o­lence tak­ing on an eth­nic di­men­sion – pit­ting mem­bers of Kiir’s Dinka tribe against Machar’s Nuer com­mu­nity.

Atroc­i­ties are re­ported to have been car­ried out by both sides.

Wit­nesses have re­ported mas­sacres, sum­mary ex­e­cu­tions and rapes, and UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon has promised those re­spon­si­ble would be “held ac­count­able”.

Mean­while, China has said it would soon dis­patch its spe­cial en­voy for African af­fairs to South Su­dan to make con­tact with all sides and help the sit­u­a­tion quickly re­turn to sta­bil­ity.

China is the main buyer of South Su­dan’s oil, and has in­vested heav­ily in oil in­fra­struc­ture and pipe­lines that carry crude from Unity and Up­per Nile States.

Crude prices have edged higher be­cause of the fight­ing, as oil pro­duc­tion, which ac­counts for more than 95 per- cent of South Su­dan’s econ­omy, was dented by the vi­o­lence and by the evac­u­a­tion of oil work­ers.

The UN says more than 120 000 peo­ple have been dis­placed, in­clud­ing 63 000 shel­ter­ing at UN peace­keep­ing bases.

UN spe­cial en­voy Hilde John­son has said UN troops were “over­stretched” and needed ex­tra man­power to be de­ployed with “un­prece­dented speed”.

“We are work­ing on 48 hours de­liv­ery of sev­eral of the crit­i­cal as­sets that we need,” she said.

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, af­ter the vi­o­lence raged out of con­trol.

John­son said the UN peace­keep­ing of­fice was “work­ing around the clock” to get as­sets for its South Su­dan mis­sion from other de­ploy­ments in Africa, no­tably from the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, Su­dan’s Dar­fur re­gion and Liberia. – Sapa- AFP and Reuters MOSCOW: One of two freed mem­bers of punk protest band Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokon­nikova, says their re­lease was an ef­fort to im­prove Rus­sia’s im­age be­fore the Sochi Olympics, which she called Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s pet project.

At a news con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, four days af­ter their re­lease un­der a Krem­lin amnesty, Tolokon­nikova’s band mate Maria Alyokhina said the Rus­sian Or­tho­dox Church played a role in their jail­ing last year for a pro­fan­ity- laced protest in a Moscow cathe­dral.

Eight die in bomb at­tack on restau­rant

MOGADISHU: At least eight peo­ple were killed in Mogadishu when a re­motely con­trolled bomb ex­ploded in a busy restau­rant in the So­mali cap­i­tal yes­ter­day.

The po­lice sus­pect al Qaedalinked group al- Shabaab planted the bomb. Al-Shabaab did not im­me­di­ately claim re­spon­si­bil­ity.

PIC­TURES: AP

WIN­DOW OF OP­POR­TU­NITY: Pres­i­dent Uhuru Kenyatta, left, makes his ad­dress dur­ing the In­ter-Gov­ern­men­tal Au­thor­ity on De­vel­op­ment (Igad) con­sul­ta­tive meet­ing on the sit­u­a­tion on South Su­dan held at State House, Nairobi, yes­ter­day. Next to him are Ethiopian Prime Min­is­ter and Igad chair­man, Haile­mariam De­salegn, ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary Mah­boub Maalim, and Ugan­dan Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni, right.

VI­TAL MEET­ING: Uhuru Kenyatta, left, and Ethiopian Prime Min­is­ter Haile­mariam De­salegn, right, ar­rive for a meet­ing with South Su­danese Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir at State House in Juba, South Su­dan, on Thurs­day. Igad would not ac­cept the un­con­sti­tu­tional over­throw of a demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment, Kenyatta said.

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