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Embassies evacuate amid South Sudan violence

July 11, 2016

Embassies have begun evacuating non-essential staff as violence continues to grow in South Sudan. Fighting continues to rage between troops loyal to the president and vice president sparking fears of civil war.

Südsudan Opposition Soldaten
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Dhil

Heavy fighting erupted again in South Sudan's capital on Monday a day after the UN Security Council told the warring factions to settle their differences peacefully after days of violence that have left scores dead.

When this did not happen, the United States, Canada, Japan and other foreign governments began emptying their diplomatic missions of non-essential staff.

With regards to the German embassy, sources at Germany's foreign office told DW they were watching the situation in Juba "very closely."

"The safety of Germans, employees of German organizations abroad as well as our own embassy staff has the highest priority," the foreign office said, adding that Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had spoken with his counterpart in South Sudan, Deng Alor, on Sunday evening asking that the authorities do everything to ensure the safety of German nationals.

For now, the already "very high" levels of security were being continually reassessed and altered to suit the situation, sources told DW.

In the statement, Steinmeier had said "Whatever the reasons for the recent outbreak of fighting are: it is now the urgent task of President Kiir and Vice President Machar to call their supporters to order and to ensure that the fighting be stopped immediately." He called on all sides to "participate in the stabilization of the peace process" and avoid taking away the "last hope for a better future in the country."

Witnesses reported "very, very heavy fighting," with residents barricading themselves inside houses and aid workers holed up in bunkers while the US embassy warned of "serious fighting between government and opposition forces."

At least 270 people have been killed as clashes involving small arms and heavy weapons continue. The death toll is expected to continue to rise.

"We're extremely worried about what appears to be the lack of command and control over the troops," US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said shortly before the Security Council briefing.

A Japanese C-130 was to be dispatched to evacuate Japanese nationals and already some 47 Japanese development agency workers had left on charter flights, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday.

"There are around 70 Japanese in Juba and we have confirmed that all are safe," Suga said in Tokyo.

Vice President Riek Machar - a former rebel commander - said his residence was attacked by the president's troops, raising fears of a slide back into full-blown conflict in the five-year-old nation.

South Sudan's information minister Michael Makuei - serving under President Salva Kiir - blamed the former rebels for the violence and insisted Sunday afternoon the government was "in full control of Juba."

Factions loyal to Kir and Machar fought each other in a two-year civil war that started in late 2013. Renewed clashes erupted late on Thursday when when troops loyal to Kiir stopped Machar loyalists' vehicles and demanded they be allowed to search them. That stand-off led to clashes.

Machar and Kiir had spent months wrangling over details after signing the peace deal last year. Machar finally returned to Juba to resume his former position as vice president in April.

Südsudan Präsident Salva Kiir und Vizepräsident Riek Machar
South Sudan has seen more fighting than peace since independence from Sudan in 2011. Salva Kiir, right, accused Riek Machar of plotting a coup in 2013 leading to a destructive civil war. The two agreed to share power earlier this year.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Dhil

Security Council briefed

Two UN peacekeepers from China were killed at the base Sunday night, according to Chinese state media. The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Sunday, urging both sides to end fighting and calling for more peacekeepers.

The council's 15 member countries demanded Kiir and Machar "genuinely commit themselves to the full and immediate implementation of the peace agreement, including the permanent ceasefire and redeployment of military forces from Juba.

Regional leaders, including from Kenya and Sudan, urged an end to the fighting and plan to hold a special summit in Nairobi on Monday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was "shocked and appalled" at the resumption in fighting and urged both sides to halt the violence.

Aid workers said a UN camp housing around 28,000 people previously uprooted by the war had been caught in the crossfire, which wounded some civilians.

A steady stream of people clutching children and possessions headed for the hoped-for refuge of another UN base close to the city's airport, only to find fighting erupting there as well. There were also reports of hundreds of South Sudanese crossing into neighboring Uganda.

Some airlines also canceled flights to Juba due to the fluid security situation.

Fighting since 2013 has left large areas of the country of 11 million people struggling to find enough food. It has also disrupted oil production, by far the government's main source of revenue.

jar/rc (Reuters, AFP)

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