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South Sudan Vows to Hunt for Former Deputy After Coup

South Sudan's Former Vice President Riek Machar
Riek Machar, former vice president of South Sudan, is seen in this 2011 file photo. Photographer: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- South Sudan is seeking to detain former Vice President Riek Machar and other politicians that President Salva Kiir said led a failed coup this week.

The government has arrested 10 people and is searching for Machar, who was dismissed as Kiir’s deputy in July, and four others who fled the capital, Juba, Information Minister Michael Makuei said yesterday.

“They’re being pursued and ultimately they’ll be arrested,” Makuei said. “They’re ambitious politicians who want to achieve their objectives through other means than democracy.”

The U.S. State Department yesterday ordered its non-essential employees to leave the country and advised American citizens against travel to South Sudan.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined to call the violence in South Sudan a coup, saying, “It’s too early to determine what sparked the violence.”

Harf, at a briefing in Washington, called on the country’s government “to respect the rule of law, refrain from arbitrary arrests, and adhere to the principles laid out in their constitution.”

Kiir declared an overnight curfew Dec. 16 after fighting began a day earlier between soldiers at an army barracks, leaving 40 people dead. More than 16,000 people have sought refuge at two United Nations compounds and thousands more want entry to the sites, Toby Lanzer, UN deputy special representative to South Sudan, said on Al-Jazeera yesterday.

Ethnic Groups

The death toll may rise because it doesn’t include casualties at a military hospital, Health Ministry Undersecretary Makur Matur Kariom said yesterday.

The UN Special Representative to South Sudan Hilde Johnson yesterday urged the country’s leaders “to refrain from any action that fuels ethnic tensions and exacerbates violence.”

Kiir, a member of the Dinka ethnic group, fired Machar, a Nuer, along with the entire cabinet after the former deputy said he will contest the 2015 presidential elections.

“Clearly the tensions have been there for a long time, and it will be difficult to bring everything back to normal,” Cedric Barnes, Horn of Africa Project Director at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said yesterday by phone from Nairobi, Kenya. “The events of the last 48 hours and the talk about ethnic groups being targeted will make existing disputes even more difficult to resolve.”

Those Detained

The president’s office said on its website that those detained include Deng Alor, ex-minister of cabinet affairs, Oyay Deng Ajak, former head of national security, Madut Biar, one-time telecommunications minister, and Gier Chaung, former roads minister. Others held are ex-justice minister, John Luk, former sports minister, Cirino Hteng, and Majak Agot, one-time deputy defense minister.

Pagan Amum, Secretary-General of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and former chief negotiator in talks with Sudan, is among those being sought, according to the statement.

South Sudan split from its northern neighbor Sudan in 2011, taking three-quarters of the formerly united country’s oil output. The land-locked nation has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest oil reserves after Nigeria and Angola, according to the BP Statistical Review, and exports about 220,000 barrels of oil a day through pipelines across Sudan. A dispute with Sudan in 2012 over export revenues led to a 15-month freeze in crude production that cut South Sudan’s economy in half.

Oil production hasn’t been affected, Mawien Makol Arik, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said. China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd. produce most of the country’s crude. “Oil production is still going on,” Arik said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mading Ngor in Juba at; David Malingha Doya in Nairobi at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at

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