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President Salva Kiir demands an immediate end to the fighting

U.S., India evacuate nonemergency nationals from South Sudan

CNN —  

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on Monday demanded an immediate end to the fighting between his soldiers and those loyal to his rival vice president. The civil disputes have left more than 150 dead across the capital city of Juba since fighting broke out on Thursday.

Following an overnight lull, fighting resumed Monday morning with the sound of gunfire blasting through parts of Juba, according to Shantal Persaud, acting spokeswoman for the U.N. Mission in South Sudan. The fighting threatens to throw the newest formed nation in the world back into a civil war.

The U.N. Security Council expressed its readiness to provide more security on the ground, and is calling upon nearby nations to prepare troops for possible deployment, said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

Fighting first broke out Thursday with skirmishes between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, loyal to Kiir, and soldiers backing Vice President Riek Machar. The resurgence came after a halt the day before when the country celebrated the fifth anniversary of its independence from Sudan.

“What we may be seeing is a total breakdown of command and control in Juba,” said Kate Almquist Knopf, director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. “We need to watch carefully for whether a cycle of reprisal killings by either side begins in the next few days.”

The United States and India are evacuating nonemergency staff from their missions in South Sudan as bloody violence in the capital spirals, leaving scores of people dead, including two Chinese U.N. peacekeepers.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it ceased almost all its operations in Juba on Friday due to fighting.

Persaud, the U.N. mission spokeswoman, talked to CNN by phone from a U.N. compound, taking cover in the bathroom as gunfire was exchanged outside the complex near Jubal’s airport. Shots were also heard outside a U.N. civilian protection facility in the city’s southeast.

Why they’re fighting

The Security Council, which held a closed door meeting Sunday, expressed “shock and outrage” at attacks on civilians and U.N. compounds, saying they may constitute war crimes.

It called on Kiir and Machar to control their respective warring forces, prevent the spread of violence and commit themselves to implementing a ceasefire and peace agreement.

Machar said that soldiers on his side had been bombarded from helicopters.

An estimated 83,000 people are seeking refuge in churches, schools and outside the peacekeeping base of the U.N. mission, according to the United Nations.

Humanitarian workers have been stopped and threatened at checkpoints when trying to deliver assistance, unable to reach the most needy, according to Chaloka Beyani, the U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

International law requires that parties in conflict allow humanitarian workers to have safe passage, he said. The threats to humanitarians in the western city of Wau are unconscionable, his office said in a statement Monday, stressing that leaders of armed groups and forces must tell their troops to back off. Two weeks ago, fighting in Wau displaced at least 70,000, according to the United Nations.

“I am deeply disturbed by the renewed outbreak of violence in South Sudan, a country which marked its fifth anniversary of independence on Saturday with gunfire instead of celebration,” Beyani said.

“Everything came to a halt because there was too much confusion, too much shooting, too much commotion in town. Checkpoints are making movements impossible,” said Jurg Eglin, head of the Red Cross mission in the country.

Stranded, hungry and scared

Thousands of people took shelter at the World Food Programme’s compound, also close to the fighting, said Challis McDonough, the organization’s senior regional spokeswoman.