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Peace talks in Ethiopia fail to quell fighting in South Sudan

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 31st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Despite peace talks in Ethiopia, ethnic tensions have ignited new fight in South Sudan, Africa's newest nation. Both sides, one still loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar have fought their way into the city of Bor, the main center in the sprawling Jonglei state where a similar ethnic massacre in 1991 also claimed hundreds of lives.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Both the West and nearby regional powers have asked both sides to end the  conflict. At least a 1,000 people have been killed in the violence, which has also cut South Sudan's oil output and raised fears of a full-blown civil war.

Machar told reporters that his forces had taken the town. While the army is outnumbered, the military still remains in control of several areas.

Machar had agreed to dialogue; his representatives were due to arrive in Addis Ababa, according to Ethiopian authorities. Machar, however, says he was not ready to accept the ceasefire demanded by neighboring states.

"We are going there," South Sudan Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said, referring to Ethiopia. Marial added there was no chance of President Salva Kiir agreeing to share power with Machar in talks.

Violence erupted on December 15 when fighting broke out among a group of soldiers in Juba. The violence quickly spread like wildfire to half of the country's ten states, cleaving the nation along the ethnic fault line of Machar's Nuer group and Kiir's Dinkas.

Kiir claims that Machar started the fighting in an effort to seize power. Machar has denied the charge, but took to the bush and acknowledged leading soldiers battling the government. Machar also said he was leading the "White Army" militia fighting in Bor.

In the meantime, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni says that other east African nations have agreed to move in and defeat Machar if he rejected the ceasefire offer, threatening to turn the fighting into a regional conflict.

The city of Bor was briefly seized by the rebels early in the conflict before being retaken by government troops after several days of heavy fighting.

With the fighting, come the inevitable refugees: About 70,000 civilians have fled Bor and sought refuge in the town of Awerial in neighboring Lakes state, with no access to food, clean water or shelter. "Living conditions are verging on the catastrophic," a representative with Doctors Without Frontiers said.



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