UN Concerned South Sudan at Armed Youth Advancing in Jonglei

The United Nations expressed concern that armed youths loyal to former South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar are advancing toward the Jonglei state capital, Bor, which was retaken by government troops last week.

The UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan is using aerial surveillance to determine the number of fighters, who may be planning attacks on communities in the eastern region, according to a statement dated yesterday on the UNMISS website.

“The involvement of these armed youths in the ongoing violence would add a volatile and unpredictable ingredient into the precarious security situation,” according to the statement.

The UN estimates more than 1,000 people have been killed in violence that has spread since fighting on Dec. 15 between soldiers in the presidential guard in the capital, Juba, bringing the country to the edge of civil war.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accuses Machar, who is from the Nuer group and was fired as his deputy in July, of plotting to remove him in a coup, an accusation Machar has denied. Machar’s rebellion against the government has expanded across the country and includes the oil-producing Unity and Upper Nile states, cutting output by at least 45,000 barrels per day to 200,000 barrels daily.

The conflict has sparked a humanitarian crisis, leaving 180,000 people displaced, with 75,000 seeking protection at UN camps in the country. The UN says aid agencies need $209 million to provide emergency relief.

Youth to Bor

The youth marching toward Bor, which the government briefly lost to rebels loyal to Machar this month, are known as the White Army, a Nuer militia that wears white ash on their skin to ward off insects, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported today on its website.

The UN peacekeeping mission conducted an air reconnaissance flight over southwestern Jonglei state yesterday, and saw large groupings of armed youths about 50 kilometers (31 miles) away from Bor, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters today in New York.

Herve Ladsous, the head of UN peacekeeping operations who briefed the UN Security Council today, said other surveillance flights were made and more tactical air assets such as helicopters are necessary to boost monitoring capabilities.

East African leaders mediating the conflict have given the two sides until tomorrow to cease hostilities. Kiir has said he’s willing to enter negotiations as long as there are no preconditions. The African Union said South Sudanese authorities should consider releasing political detainees “in order to facilitate dialogue.”

Mass Graves

A delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo representing the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region is in Juba today to help move forward peace talks, Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman Mawien Makol Arik said by phone.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said on Dec. 24 that at least three mass graves had been found, including one in Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, and two reported in Juba, which the UN was working to verify. South Sudanese from the Dinka and Nuer groups feared being killed because of their ethnicity, Pillay said.

The UN Security Council last week agreed to add 5,500 soldiers and 423 police officers to its contingent of 7,900 uniformed personnel already authorized for South Sudan.

UN Peacekeepers

Seventy-three Bangladeshi police personnel serving in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo arrived in South Sudan last week and they were deployed to Malakal, Bor and Juba, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters today in New York.

More police units serving in the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia are expected to arrive next week, Nesirky said.

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

South Sudan has sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil reserves after Nigeria and Angola, according to BP Plc data. South Sudan’s crude is pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. The fighting has led some oil companies including CNPC to temporarily evacuate workers and foreign governments including the U.S. and Canada to pull out employees.

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