Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In South Sudan, Strife Looms in Few Peaceful Places Left

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In South Sudan, Strife Looms in Few Peaceful Places Left

Article excerpt

As South Sudan's civil war drags into a seventh month, President Salva Kiir faces new political and military challenges in parts of the young nation that until now were spared violence.

Violence flared again this week in the lucrative and powerful oil- producing states in the east and north, where bitter fighting raged this winter and spring. The new tensions threaten to expand what already seems an intractable conflict.

With peace talks in Ethiopia postponed indefinitely amid new rebel demands over who should participate, rebel and government forces engaged this week near Bentiu, the capital of Unity State, despite two cease-fires.

Meanwhile, a debate in the national capital of Juba over federal vs. state powers in South Sudan reached such a boiling point that the International Crisis Group, a well-known advocacy NGO, called for an emergency UN Security Council session.

Today the UN Security Council threatened sanctions against the South's warring leaders, describing "food insecurity" and warning of a larger famine in the region that includes parts of Sudan as well.

South Sudan broke from Sudan after a 2011 referendum and decades of civil strife. Yet the young nation plunged into its own civil war on Dec. 15 when a power struggle between President Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his former vice president, Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, cleaved the military in two along ethnic lines.

The fighting has killed more than 10,000 and both sides are charged with committing atrocities that include civilian massacres and rapes. Some 1.5 million people have fled their homes and famine looms because displaced farmers missed the planting season.

The European Union on Friday sanctioned two generals in Unity State, Peter Gadet of the rebels and Santino Deng of the government, for violating a cease-fire. In May, the US sanctioned Mr. Gadet and a different government military leader.

Last week, rebel forces commanded by Mr. Machar moved to cut off supply routes to the government-controlled city of Bentiu; this week the government shelled rebel positions east and south of Bentiu, in the counties of Nhialdiu and Guit, according to UN sources.

The rumble of explosions were heard this week from Bentiu's UN base where tens of thousands of displaced civilians take shelter, prompting aid workers to wonder if it is safe to venture even a few miles to reach civilians. …

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