UN Shelters Thousands After South Sudan Army Clashes With Rebels

Clashes between South Sudan’s army and rebels forced about 2,000 civilians to flee to a United Nations peacekeeping base in the town of Pibor, a UN spokesman said.

Five people were killed, including four civilians, Joseph Konyi, the commissioner of Pibor county in Jonglei state, said today by phone. Fighting started at about 2:30 p.m. local time yesterday at the town’s central market, Kouider Zerrouk, deputy spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, said by phone today from the capital, Juba.

“Soldiers are still burning houses and looting up to now,” Konyi said. Army spokesman Philip Aguer said the rebels killed a soldier.

Violence in Jonglei, an eastern state bordering Ethiopia where Total SA has a stake in an oil exploration concession, has marred South Sudan’s independence from the north declared in July 2011. Ethnic clashes between the Murle and Lou Nuer killed at least 1,600 people in the state last year, according to the UN.

The rebels are among more than 180 defectors from a militia led by David Yau, a former theology student and candidate for governor of Jonglei, who are waiting to join the national armed forces, Aguer said.

The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres treated four people for gunshot wounds, Stefano Zannini, head of mission, said today in an e-mailed response to questions.

The violence may undermine attempts by Murle leaders to convince Yau Yau, who is also Murle, to rejoin the government, according to Paul Longony, director of the Boma Development Initiative, a civil society organization in Jonglei state.

“They might think if they surrender now they will be killed,” he said today in an interview in Juba.

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