South Sudan's neighbors have said they will not accept the overthrow of President Salva Kiir's government. Clashes between government troops and those loyal to his former deputy have now been going on for two weeks.
Regional leaders from an east African body called Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) met Friday (27.12.2013) in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi to discuss South Sudan.
The summit is expected to produce a roadmap for peace talks between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, Kiir's political rival, who are locked in an increasingly bloody conflict in the country.
More than 120,000 people have already been displaced by the violence, the United Nations said.
"We in Kenya and the region are concerned with the loss of lives and resultant humanitarian crisis and would like to see the government taking the initiative to end hostilities," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said late Thursday.
Kenyatta called on Kiir and Machar to seize "the small window of opportunity" and start peace talks.
Desperate humanitarian situation
The UN said aid agencies need at least $166 million (121 million euros) to save lives. Over one thousand people are already thought to have been killed in the fighting.
"We have heard reports of extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detentions of civilians, ill-treatment, abuse and also mass graves," Hilde Johnson, head of the UN mission in South Sudan told news agency AP. "Our human rights officers have been working around the clock, throughout this crisis, and they are investigating these reports and allegations."
Machar is allegedly leader of renegade forces now in control of some parts of South Sudan, remains a fugitive, while at least 10 of his political allies are in detention for their roles in the alleged coup plot.
Machar denies he was attempting a coup, and some ruling party officials insist violence broke out when presidential guards from Kiir's majority Dinka tribe tried to disarm guards from the Nuer ethnic group, leading to wider sectarian clashes.
News agency AFP reported that government forces and rebels are currently battling for control of the key oil town of Malakal.
bk/jlw (Reuters, AP)