Fresh South Su­dan vi­o­lence drives out tens of thou­sands

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News/worldwide -

GENEVA/JUBA — Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple have fled a fresh out­break of vi­o­lence in South Su­dan, re­port­ing mass killings, loot­ing and forced re­cruit­ment of child sol­diers, U.N. agen­cies said yes­ter­day.

Many of the refugees pour­ing into neigh­bour­ing Uganda, Kenya and Su­dan have been car­ry­ing mal­nour­ished chil­dren, the refugee agency the UNHCR added, the vic­tims of a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis ex­ac­er­bated by food short­ages and a cholera out­break.

The world’s new­est na­tion has been caught up in more than two years of eth­ni­cally charged fight­ing be­tween sup­port­ers of Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir and his long­time ri­val Riek Machar that has raised fears of wider in­sta­bil­ity across east Africa.

Machar’s sup­port­ers said at least nine peo­ple had died in the lat­est clashes on a road in Cen­tral Equa­to­ria state, the re­gion that in­cludes the cap­i­tal Juba, over the week­end.

Gov­ern­ment spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth played down those re­ports, in­sist­ing that a fre­quently bro­ken peace deal signed last year was still on track. “Peo­ple must un­der­stand that the peace agree­ment doesn’t be­long to Riek Machar,” he told re­porters in the cap­i­tal yes­ter­day.

The per­sonal ri­valry be­tween Kiir, from the Dinka group, and Machar, a Nuer, has wors­ened eth­nic splits in a coun­try awash with weapons since the long civil war that led to its sep­a­ra­tion from Su­dan in 2011.

Machar, who re­turned to the cap­i­tal in April un­der the terms of the trou­bled peace deal, left again last month as new clashes broke out be­tween his men and Kiir’s.

Gov­ern­ment mil­i­tary he­li­copters flew over the cap­i­tal over the week­end, but the streets were quiet yes­ter­day.

Res­i­dents re­ported sharp rises in the prices of fuel, veg­eta­bles, flour and other ba­sic food­stuffs, with traders blam­ing short­ages on block­ages on the main trade route to Uganda.

Banks closed their branches and many fam­i­lies stayed in shel­ters out­side U.N. com­pounds across the city.

Fur­ther afield, lo­cal mili­tias, who of­ten fight over con­trol of land, graz­ing and oil-pro­duc­ing ar­eas, have been tak­ing ad­van­tage of the chaos to step up their op­er­a­tions.

UN agen­cies said refugees had re­ported gun­men try­ing to block their flight and ha­rass­ing them on the way.

“Armed groups op­er­at­ing across dif­fer­ent parts of South Su­dan are loot­ing vil­lages, mur­der­ing civil­ians and forcibly re­cruit­ing young men and boys into their ranks,” UNHCR spokes­woman Melissa Flem­ing told a brief­ing in Geneva.

Around 60,000 peo­ple have fled as vi­o­lence mounted over the past three weeks, she said, the bulk of them to Uganda, dou­bling the flow over that border over the past 10 days.

“We are very con­cerned about quickly hav­ing the ca­pac­ity to treat the in­creas­ing num­bers of mal­nour­ished chil­dren who are com­ing across,” Flem­ing said.

A fur­ther 1.6 mil­lion South Su­danese are dis­placed peo­ple within their coun­try, said Jens Laerke of the UN Of­fice for Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs (OCHA).

“These are re­ally very vast num­bers, it’s a mas­sive cri­sis,” Laerke added, not­ing that in all 900,000 refugees have fled South Su­dan since De­cem­ber 2013.

A cholera out­break is spread­ing in South Su­dan, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) said, with 35 new ad­mis­sions be­ing recorded in Juba county daily, WHO spokes­woman Fadela Chaib said.

There have been signs of a split within Machar’s move­ment since he left the cap­i­tal, and an­a­lysts have ques­tioned whether both men have full author­ity over their fol­low­ers.— Reuters.

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