500 South Sudanese killed; anti-Juba rebels capture key town of Bor

19 Dec

BBC report
Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory

South Sudanese rebels have taken over a key town, the military has said, as fighting continues after Sunday’s reported coup attempt.

President Salva Kiir blames his former vice-president for the violence (BBC)

President Salva Kiir blames his former vice-president for the violence (BBC)

“Our soldiers have lost control of Bor to the force of Riek Machar,” said army spokesman Philip Aguer. President Salva Kiir has accused Mr Machar, the former vice-president, of plotting a coup – a claim he denies.

The unrest, which began in the capital Juba, has killed some 500 people and sparked fears of widespread conflict.

Since independence, several rebel groups have taken up arms and one of these is said to have been involved in the capture of Bor.

The United Nations has expressed concern about a possible civil war between the country’s two main ethnic groups, the Dinka of Mr Kiir and the Nuer of Mr Machar.

The UN has called for political dialogue to end the crisis, and the Ugandan government says its president has been asked by the UN to mediate between the two sides.
A delegation of East African foreign ministers is due to fly to Juba to try to arrange talks.

The UN peacekeeping mission says it is sheltering civilians in five state capitals, including Juba, Bor and Bentiu, the main town of the oil-producing state of Unity.

Britain and the US have both sent planes to airlift their nationals out of the country, and a US defence official described the situation as “getting ugly”.

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan’s budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state – at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.

Bor is the capital of Jonglei state, and even before the current unrest, it was seen as one of the most volatile areas of South Sudan.

Overnight there were reports of gun battles in the town, as renegade officers fought with troops still loyal to the president.

President Salva Kiir has blamed the violence on a group of soldiers who support Mr Machar, saying they tried to take power by force on Sunday night.

But Mr Machar denied allegations that he had tried to stage a coup, telling the BBC: “Salva wanted to frame me. I had to flee. They are hunting me down.”

South Sudan has struggled to achieve a stable government since becoming independent from Sudan in 2011.

The oil-rich country remains ethnically and politically divided, with many armed groups active.

After a peace deal was signed in 2005, Mr Machar was appointed vice-president of the South Sudan regional government.

He retained the position after independence in 2011 but was dropped in July when the whole cabinet was sacked.

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