- Latest clashes send 60,000 fleeing to Uganda, Sudan, Kenya
- New arrivals say armed groups targeting civilians, recruiting
More than 60,000 people have fled South Sudan since violence escalated in the oil-producing nation about four weeks ago, with arrivals reporting civilians being killed, villages looted and youths being press-ganged by armed groups.
The number of refugees seeking shelter in Uganda has doubled in the past 10 days, with more than 52,000 arriving since fighting rocked South Sudan’s capital in the first half of July, Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman with the United Nations Refugee Agency, said Tuesday in Geneva. About 7,000 have fled to Sudan, while Kenya has reported 1,000 arriving, she said.
The armed groups “are everywhere and arresting anybody,” said Christine Achieng, a 40-year-old widow who fled with her six children from Eastern Equatoria state. “All the time we were in the bush and my children had nothing to eat,” she said in an interview at a temporary camp in Elegu, Uganda, on July 30. “The schools are not working, even the hospitals are not open.”
South Sudan, which has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest crude reserves, has been roiled by a civil war that began in December 2013, leaving tens of thousands of people dead. A transitional government formed by President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar in April to end the violence has been thrown into turmoil by renewed fighting between forces loyal to the two men that claimed at least 270 lives.
The new arrivals bring the overall number of South Sudanese refugees in neighboring nations since the wider conflict began to almost 900,000, Fleming said.