UN evacuates staff, aid workers in South Sudan
UNITED NATIONS – UN peacekeepers evacuated 220 staff and aid workers from northeast South Sudan on Wednesday, August 6, after militias killed at least six relief workers, a UN spokesman said.
The troops from the UN mission in South Sudan were expected to continue evacuations on Thursday, August 7, from Bunj, in Upper Nile State, where a local militia – the Mabanese Defense Forces - was blamed for the killings.
"The peacekeepers are in the process of collecting national staff members of humanitarian aid organizations deemed to be at risk and who need to be evacuated as soon as possible," said deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.
The violence in Upper Nile State came as South Sudan is facing what the UN has said is the worst food crisis in the world and Ethiopia-brokered peace talks between rival factions have yet to yield concrete results.
At least five South Sudanese aid workers were killed Tuesday, August 5, by the militia blamed for murdering an aid worker in the same area the day before, according to the UN.
The Mabanese Defense Forces appear to be targeting civilians of ethnic Nuer origin, apparently in revenge for losses they suffered in clashes with defecting Nuer soldiers.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the attacks on the aid workers and called for progress in peace talks.
"The people of South Sudan are paying a horrific price for the failure of their leaders to resolve this senseless conflict," said Kerry in Washington.
The UN chief called for an investigation of the attacks and for armed groups to keep relief workers safe.
Fighting erupted in December, sparked by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar.
Security Council visit to South Sudan
A UN Security Council visit to South Sudan next week is expected to underscore the message to the two leaders that they must stop the fighting or face consequences.
"This visit will bring international attention to the dire humanitarian situation as well as the plight of the South Sudanese people," said Ban in a statement from his spokesman.
"It will further signal to the leadership of both parties the significance the Security Council places on the peaceful resolution of this conflict," he said.
Diplomats have raised the possibility of slapping sanctions on the two leaders, but such a measure would be decided if the talks with Security Council envoys in Juba hit a wall.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters following Security Council talks on Wednesday that there was "frustration" over the lack of progress and that it was time for the two leaders to abide by previous peace deals.
Thousands of people have been killed and over 1.5 million have fled the fighting between government troops, mutinous soldiers and ragtag militia forces divided by tribe. – Rappler.com