Renewed fighting erupted in South Sudan’s capital causing the United States, Canada, Japan and other foreign governments to begin emptying their diplomatic mission of non-essential staff.
The US State condemned reports that civilian sites had been attacked in the latest bout of violence which has killed at least 270 people and threatens to further devolve into chaos.
“We’re extremely worried about what appears to be the lack of command and control over the troops,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said shortly before the Security Council briefing.
A Japanese C-130 was to be dispatched to evacuate Japanese nationals and already some 47 Japanese development agency workers had left by charter flights, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday.
“There are around 70 Japanese in Juba and we have confirmed that all are safe,” Suga said in Tokyo.
Vice President Riek Machar – a former rebel commander – said his residence was attacked by the president’s troops, raising fears of a slide back into full-blown conflict in the five-year-old nation.
South Sudan’s information minister Michael Makuei – serving under President Salva Kiir – blamed the former rebels for the violence and insisted Sunday afternoon the government was “in full control of Juba”.
Factions loyal to Kir and Machar – fought each other in a two-year civil war that started in late 2013. Renewed clashes erupted late on Thursday when when troops loyal to Kiir stopped and demanded they be allowed to search vehicles of Machar’s loyalists. That stand-off led to clashes.
Machar and Kiir had spent months wrangling over details after signing the peace deal last year. Machar finally returned to Juba to resume his former position as vice president in April.
Security Council briefed
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting Sunday, urging both sides to end fighting and calling for more peacekeepers.
The council’s 15 member countries demanded Kiir and Machar “genuinely commit themselves to the full and immediate implementation of the peace agreement, including the permanent ceasefire and redeployment of military forces from Juba.
Regional leaders, including from Kenya and Sudan, urged an end to the fighting and plan to hold a special summit in Nairobi on Monday.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “shocked and appalled” at the resumption in fighting and urged both sides to halt the violence.
Aid workers said a UN camp housing around 28,000 people previously uprooted by the war had been caught in the crossfire, wounding some civilians.
A steady stream of people clutching children and possessions headed for the hoped-for refuge of another UN base close to the city’s airport, only to find fighting erupting there as well. There were also reports of hundreds of South Sudanese crossing into neighboring Uganda.
Some airlines also canceled flights to Juba due to the fluid security situation.
Fighting since 2013 has left large areas of the country of 11 million people struggling to find enough food. It has also disrupted oil production, by far the government’s main source of revenue.