South Sudan Rebels, Troops Clash in East as Truce Deadline Nears

Rebels allied to ex-South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar are fighting government troops at the edge of Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, despite a cease-offer offer that expires today, according to the government.

“There is no ceasefire, they have attacked Bor now, fighting is taking place now,” South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei said today in a phone interview. “Four days have already gone to negotiate. They have rejected the suspension of hostilities.”

East African leaders from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development set today as the deadline for peace talks between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and Machar, warning if the target was missed the region would take action. The African Union yesterday threatened sanctions against South Sudan combatants who incite violence and undermine dialogue.

The United Nations says “thousands” of people have died in clashes that initially erupted Dec. 15 in what Kiir has described as an attempted coup led by Machar and quickly spread to at least seven out of the country’s 10 states. The violence has cut crude production to 200,000 barrels a day from 245,000 barrels daily because of fighting in Unity state, an area that is now under “full control of the rebels,” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said today on its Facebook account.

The country’s main crude-producing region, Upper Nile state, is safe from the rebellion, Major General Gregory Vasili, an oil defense-force commander, said in an interview yesterday. Some oil companies including China National Petroleum Corp. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) have temporarily evacuated employees from South Sudan.

Dinka, Nuer

The Dinka, the ethnic group to which Kiir belongs, are pitted against the Nuer community, from which Machar is a member. The ethnic groups are among the country’s largest.

The conflict has sparked a humanitarian crisis, leaving 180,000 people displaced, with 75,000 seeking protection at UN camps in the country. More than 70,000 people in eastern Jonglei state alone escaped the clashes in Bor, and sought shelter in Awerial, in the neighboring Lakes state, with thousands of more people arriving every day, Doctors Without Borders said in a statement yesterday. The government army recaptured Bor last week after rebels briefly seized the town.

Kiir has said he’s ready for negotiations provided that he’s not bound to preconditions. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged Kiir to consider the “early” release of political detainees to facilitate talks. The UN Security Council last week authorized an almost doubling of armed personnel in the UN Mission in South Sudan peacekeeping operation, known as UNMISS, to almost 14,000 to help protect civilians.

Kiir, who fired Machar as his deputy in July, says he’s ruled out a power-sharing deal because Machar shouldn’t be rewarded for the rebellion, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported today, citing an interview with the leader.

South Sudan seceded from neighboring Sudan in July 2011 and took three-quarters of the formerly united country’s oil output. The oil provides more than 95 percent of government revenue. The landlocked country exports all its crude through pipelines across Sudan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mading Ngor in Juba at mngor@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.