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South Sudan - Tribal Warfare 2013

Fighting broke out in Juba on 15 December 2013 and rapidly spread to around half of South Sudan's 10 states. The government said the clashes in Juba were a coup bid launched by former Vice President Riek Machar, but Machar denied he had orchestrated an attempt to oust Kiir. Media reports said that hundreds of people had been killed since the clashes between members of the national forces, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) began. UNMISS said on 18 December 2013 it had observed a “noticeable improvement” in security conditions in much of the capital, Juba. The Mission lifted restrictions on the movement of its personnel, and has resumed patrols on a limited basis in the city itself and restored flight service to and from the Ugandan city of Entebbe.

“Life in the center of town is returning back to relative normalcy. The safety of civilians in the South Sudanese capital remains a concern, however, especially on the city’s outskirts,” the Mission said in a news release. Meanwhile, security conditions in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, had deteriorated significantly during the course of the day, with heavy fighting reported this morning, the Mission noted. Bor was the site of a notable massacre by the Hhite Army in 1991 in which Nuer militias massacred Dinkas in an outburst of inter-ethnic fighting. The violence triggered an exodus of civilians out of Bor, and thousands have sought shelter at the UNMISS compound on the outskirts of the city.

On 19 December 2013, over 2,000 heavily armed assailants stormed an UNMISS base in Akobo, in restive Jonglei state, in a brazen attack that left some 20 Dinka civilians dead as well as two UN peacekeepers, with a third wounded. At the time, 43 Indian peacekeepers, six UN police advisers and two UN civilian staffers were present at the base. About 30 South Sudanese had sought shelter from the turmoil plaguing areas of Akobo County, the Mission said in a statement.

On 24 December 2013 the UN Security Council today authorized almost doubling the United Nations peacekeeping force in strife-torn South Sudan to nearly 14,000 in the face of a rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian crisis that has left hundreds of civilians dead and tens of thousands of others driven from their homes. As requested by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Council unanimously approved a temporary increase in the strength of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to up to 12,500 military and 1,323 police from a current combined strength of some 7,000, through the transfer of units if necessary from other UN forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Darfur, Abyei, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.

In a resolution passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which authorizes the use of force, the 15-member Council demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities and the immediate opening of a dialogue between the rival factions, and condemned the fighting and violence targeted against civilians and specific ethnic and other communities as well as attacks and threats against UNMISS.

On December 17, 2013, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. Embassy personnel from Juba, Republic of South Sudan. On Dec. 21, four U.S. service members were injured in South Sudan when they attempted to evacuate Americans from the town of Bor, according to a U.S. Africa Command statement. They were hit by small-arms fire by unknown forces when their three CV-22 Osprey aircraft attempted to land in Bor. On 22 December 2013, the United States -- in coordination with the United Nations and in consultation with the South Sudanese government -- safely evacuated American citizens from Bor. The commander of Africom, Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, repositioned forces in East Africa in an effort to attain maximum flexibility to respond to State Department requests. The United States said 150 Marines had been moved to Djibouti, ready to enter South Sudan to evacuate Americans and protect US facilities.

US Secretary of State John Kerry called both President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar on Tuesday, urging them to halt the fighting and hold mediated political talks. Both men said they were ready for dialogue, but the government rejected Machar's demand that detained opposition leaders be released first. The government said that forces loyal to Machar remain in control of Bentiu, one of two state capitals seized by renegade soldiers last week. It said on Tuesday that the army retook the other city, Bor, and was clearing out remaining rebel forces.

Rebel soldiers and government troops in South Sudan fought for control of Malakal, the capital of oil-producing Upper Nile State. Clashes in the town began 24 December 2013 and picked up again the following day, with government officials acknowledging the army was not in full control of the town.

Days of clashes in South Sudan hit the country's largest source of revenue as oil production was halted in Unity state after foreign workers fled the oil fields over fears of more fighting in the region. "Unfortunately, the workers have closed the oil. Nobody closed it from us here," said former army General James Koang Chuol, who defected last week and took control of Bentiu, the capital of Unity state. Unity produced around 15 percent of the country's total oil output before the latest shutdown.

The Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an African regional bloc said December 27, 2013 that South Sudan's government has agreed to a cease-fire, a move that could help end inter-ethnic fighting that had left more than 1,000 people dead this month. IGAD announced the decision at the end of a Friday summit in Nairobi. The group urged supporters of President Salva Kiir's former deputy, Riek Machar, to make the same commitment. Earlier, President Kiir and Machar both said they were ready for dialogue, but the government rejected Machar's demand that detained opposition leaders be released first. A spokesman for South Sudan's foreign ministry, Mawien Makol Arik said the government's ceasefire would begin immediately. Arik said Vice President Riek Machar, the leader of the rebellion, had three days to respond to the ceasefire call.

The government agreed to release eight of 11 prisoners suspected of plotting the coup. Most of the 11 detainees were not outright Machar supporters, but part of a group made up of ex-comrades of the late Sudanese liberation hero John Garang, known as the "Garang Boys". But Machar forces would not agree to cease-fire terms until the government releases all 11 prisoners. Machar said the "mechanisms for monitoring" any agreement must first be established.

The day after the government announced a cease-fire, the so-called White Army militia [first formed by vice president Riek Machar in the early 1990s], was marching on the capital of Jonglei state, threatening to escalate violence. Thousands of armed ethnic Nuer youths were heading toward the South Sudan city of Bor, after the rebel opposition dismissed calls to end hostilities until all political prisoners are freed. The White Army is a group of armed civilian cattle camp guards from the Nuer ethnic group that in the past has organized thousands of fighters to launch attacks in Jonglei state, mostly targeting the Murle community. South Sudan's government claimed that some 25,000 armed fighters from the Machar-backed force - the so called "White Army" - planned to attack the central town of Bor, which was retaken by government forces a few days earlier. The youth, like Machar, are ethnic Nuers while President Salva Kiir and his loyalists are ethnic Dinka.

South Sudan government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth said 28 December 2013 that that more than 25,000 Lou Nuer youth were marching toward Bor, the provincial capital of Jonglei state. But the next day Lueth said that Nuer community leaders in Jonglei state had met with the fighters and persuaded most to stand down. Only a "very few" refused to listen and were still gathering, Lueth said. But the same day, Ateny Wek Ateng, a spokesman for President Salva Kiir, denied earlier reports that most of the youths had been persuaded to go home. On 31 December 2013 heavy fighting erupted in Bor, the contested provincial capital of Jonglei state, a short drive from the capital Juba. Enough White Army forces - variously estimated at 5,000 to 25,000 - converged to take control of the city. The SPLA estimated the number of rebels in Bor at between 4,000-7,000. Government troops effected a "tactical withdrawal" [ran away], while the White Army forces declared their intention to march on Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said 30 December 2013 that East African states had warned South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar to sign a cease-fire deal or face action by regional nations. Museveni, who met South Sudanese President Salva Kiir in South Sudan's capital, Juba said Machar has been given four days to respond to the offer. Uganda said it had troops stationed at Juba's international airport tasked with "facilitating evacuation of civilians," but United Nations workers in the city said the forces were more widely deployed. Museveni and Kiir are strong allies. This raised concerns that Sudan might once again throw its support to Riek Machar’s rebel forces. Riek Machar’s expedient decision in 1997 to make a factitious “peace” with Khartoum (the so-called “Khartoum Peace Agreement”) led subsequently to some of the most violent fighting of the war, concentrated in Riek's Nuer homeland of Unity State (then Western Upper Nile).

On 31 December 2013 the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) voiced grave concern over mounting evidence of gross human rights abuses in the strife-torn country, including extra-judicial killings of civilians and captured soldiers, massive displacements and arbitrary detentions, often on ethnic grounds. "Available evidence indicates that atrocities are continuing to occur in various parts of South Sudan... Many of these violations appear to be ethnically targeted. Most of the more brutal atrocities are reported to have been carried out by people wearing uniform."



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