The UN says 34,000 people sought refuge at UN bases in three locations across the country [Reuters]
Salva Kiir sounds caution as UN says 20 feared dead after one of its compounds was stormed by thousands of armed youths.
The president of South Sudan has implored people to turn away from ethnic hatred and said that “the long arm of the law” would find those who have killed during a week of violence.
Salva Kiir’s warning came on Friday as the UN said 20 people from the ethnic Dinka group were feared killed during an attack by thousands of armed youths from a different ethnic group on a UN peacekeeping base in Jonglei state.
The ethnic Lou Nuer youths overran the UN base in Akobo on Thursday, killing two Indian peacekeepers and fleeing with arms, ammunition and other supplies, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan said in a statement.
The Dinka civilians killed had sought refuge at the base.
Kiir did not speak publicly, but the government’s Twitter feed attributed this quote to him: “Those who may want to take the law into their hands, the long arm of the government will get them.”
The president met with foreign ministers from neighbouring states, including Kenya and Ethiopia, who flew into Juba, the capital, to help calm tensions after a week of ethnic strife that is estimated to have killed hundreds.
The United Nations said on Friday that 34,000 people continued to seek refuge at UN bases in three locations across the country, including 20,000 at two bases in the capital.
The US embassy had a fifth emergency evacuation flight on Friday to move Americans out of the country. British, German and Dutch planes were also scheduled to fly out.
Hundreds of foreigners, including aid workers, have hurriedly left South Sudan this week at warnings from foreign embassies concerned about the possibility of out-of-control violence.
Forty-five US troops were dispatched to Juba earlier this week to protect US citizens and property.
Ethnic violence broke out among South Sudan’s presidential guard late on Sunday night, and fighting spread across the country over the next several days, leading to fears of a civil war between ethnic groups.
Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, earlier this week said an attempted coup had triggered the violence, and the blame was placed on fired Vice President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer. But officials have since said a fight between Dinka and Nuer members of the presidential guard triggered the violence.
Machar’s ousting from the country’s No. 2 political position earlier this year had stoked ethnic and political tensions.
One of the most worrying bouts of violence this week was in Unity State, where much of South Sudan’s oil is located. Armed opposition groups appeared to be in control of some oil fields in the state, the International Crisis Group told the AP news agency.
South Sudan’s oil fields have historically been a target for rebel movements “raising concerns that competition over resources could be a key driver of the unfolding crisis,” said Global Witness, a London-based group that investigates and campaigns to prevent natural resource related conflict.
“The potential for oil wealth to exacerbate the current power struggle should not be underestimated,” Emma Vickers of Global Witness said on Friday.
“If rebel forces were to capture the oil fields, they could effectively hold the government to ransom.”
South Sudan gets nearly 99 percent of its government budget from oil revenues. The country reportedly earned $1.3bn in oil sales in just five months this year, Global Witness said.
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