U.N. evacuates non-critical staff in South Sudan

At least 500 have been killed over six days of clashes between followers of both sides in the Juba, the capital of oil-rich South Sudan

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The United Nations mission in South Sudan said on Sunday it was relocating all non-critical staff from the capital, Juba, to Uganda amid escalating violence as the country's military battles rebel forces, The Associated Press reported.

The mission said in a Twitter update Sunday that all remaining civilian staff in Bor - the Jonglei state capital that has been the scene of fierce fighting -had been evacuated to Juba.

Envoys from the United States and from African powerhouse Nigeria are flying into Juba Sunday, part of intense diplomatic efforts to avert all-out civil war in South Sudan, an official said.

Donald Booth, the U.S. envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, is expected to arrive later Sunday, an official at the South Sudanese foreign affairs ministry told Agence France-Presse, adding that Nigeria is also sending in an envoy.

A group of foreign ministers from east Africa and the Horn wrapped up a three-day mediation bid, during which they met with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, on Saturday.

South Sudan’s government on Saturday agreed to talks with Kiir’s rival, deposed vice president Riek Machar, who is now on the run, provided no conditions were attached to the talks.

The chief of South Sudan’s army dismissed claims that his country was on the brink of civil war.

“A civil war will not come. We will avoid it at all costs,” he told AFP late Saturday.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has expressed concern about instability in neighboring South Sudan and other volatile states in the region, official media reported Sunday.

Bashir “expressed his concern about what is going on in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Libya and Egypt,” the state SUNA news agency reported.

“The role of Sudan is to support these countries in achieving stability,” Bashir told a reception for former and current government officials.

U.N. security General Ban Ki-moon demanded Saturday an immediate end to violence in South Sudan, warning that tens of thousands remained vulnerable.

“I demand that all political, military and militia leaders stop hostilities and end the violence against the civilians,” Ban told a news briefing in Manila while wrapping up a two-day visit to the Philippines.

“Find a political way out of this crisis,” said Ban, calling on South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his rival, former Vice President Riek Machar, to order their followers to stop using arms.

“I call on them to do everything in their power to ensure that their followers hear their message loud and clear,” Ban said.

“Continued violence, ethnic or otherwise, is completely unacceptable and poses a dangerous threat to the future of their young country,” he added.

At least 500 have been killed over six days of clashes between followers of both sides in the Juba, the capital of oil-rich South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

The clashes sparked after Kiir accused Machar of trying to mount coup. The accusations are denied by the latter. Machar in turn also accused the president of carrying out a bloody purge.

Around 40,000 people have sought refuge in the U.N. camps across the country, said U.N. chief, as tens of thousands have been internally displaced as a result to the clashes driving the country to ward civil war.

U.S. servicemen were wounded in a recent attack on their aircraft on its way to evacuate Americans from Bor, a rebel-held town.

In a separate incident, two U.N. peacekeepers were killed Thursday after rebel forces attacked a U.N. camp where civilians have taken refurge.

(With AFP)

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