Yes, I'm leading rebellion - S Sudan ex-VP
23 December 2013, 08:18
Juba/Manila - South Sudan's former vice president confirmed that he is leading a rebellion and claimed to have taken control over the key oil-producing region of Unity State, the BBC reported on Sunday.
The British broadcaster quoted Riek Machar as saying he would be ready to negotiate with the government, if detained officials allied with him were released and allowed transit to a neutral nation, such as Ethiopia.
Several former ministers were arrested immediately after the outbreak of violence in the country a week ago. Machar's whereabouts are unknown, but he is presumed to be in South Sudan.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir has also agreed to talks, as leaders from neighbouring African nations scramble to organize negotiations and prevent a further slide towards war.
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanded an end to the spreading civil conflict, and called on Kiir and Machar to negotiate a political solution. "I demand that all political, military and militia leaders stop hostilities and end the violence against civilians," he said.
"They are responsible to the people of South Sudan to end the crisis and find a political means of addressing their differences." Ban warned the violence poses "a dangerous threat to the future of your country".
More than 40 000 civilians have taken refuge in various UN shelters amid the deteriorating security situation. "We are now actively trying to transfer our assets from other peacekeeping missions," Ban said.
"We are also seeking the support of other key countries who can provide the necessary asset." Ban said the UN faces "a shortage in capacity" after the UN compound in the area was overrun by 2 000 gunmen who killed two peacekeepers and at least 11 civilians.
More than 500 people have died in the week of violence which started in Juba and has spread to other parts of the country, including Jonglei State, an area prone to ethnic violence, and the oil producing Unity State region near the border with Sudan. On Saturday, three US aircraft were hit by small-arms fire as they approached Bor, the capital of Jonglei, to evacuate US citizens.
Four soldiers were injured. The plane made an emergency landing in Uganda. US President Barack Obama warned South Sudan leaders they run the risk of losing US support and emphasised their responsibility to support efforts to secure Americans in Juba and Bor.
"Any effort to seize power through the use of military force will result in the end of longstanding support from the United States and the international community," he said.
The African Union has warned that the country, which gained independence in 2011, is slipping into a civil war. The conflict has ethnic overtones, sparking concerns that it could take on tribal dimensions.
Kiir is a Dinka, South Sudan's largest ethnic group, while Machar is Nuer. The two tribes have had violent conflicts, mostly centred in Jonglei and focused on cattle raids, ever since South Sudan's independence.