Monday, December 23, 2013

#SouthSudan Refugees Swell as Americans Are Evacuated

Robert Stacy McCain continues his reporting, "The Sudden #SouthSudan Crisis," and "#SouthSudan: It’s Civil War Now."

But see the front-page, above-the-fold report at today's Wall Street Journal, "Country the U.S. Helped Create Might Be Spiraling Toward Civil War":

NAIROBI, Kenya—The U.S. military on Sunday rushed to evacuate American citizens from a rebel-held town in South Sudan, the latest sign that a country the U.S. helped create might be spiraling toward civil war.

About 15 Americans were evacuated on Sunday from the town of Bor in helicopters, according to a State Department spokeswoman. The flights were part of a broader exodus of international workers and South Sudanese from fighting between factions of South Sudan's army. The U.S. has evacuated about 380 U.S. officials and private citizens, said the spokeswoman, Jen Psaki.

A political power struggle between former South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir ahead of 2015 elections appears to have set off the violence. It quickly descended into ethnic clashes that risk splitting the country of 10 million.

By Sunday, rebel factions allied with Mr. Machar, a member of the Nuer ethnic group, had solidified control of territory they seized in a week of gunbattles with government forces that have left 500 dead, according to figures provided by South Sudan's military, other officials and the U.N.

Mr. Kiir, from the largest ethnic group, the Dinka, said last week that his former deputy and rival for the presidency had attempted a coup and been beaten back. Mr. Machar denied an attempt to overthrow Mr. Kiir but then said it was time for Mr. Kiir to go.

The dispute quickly widened to Bor, the capital of South Sudan's largest state, on Wednesday, and two U.N. peacekeepers and 20 civilians were killed Thursday when armed men overran a U.N. camp in another part of Jonglei state.

The rebels allied with Mr. Machar have taken two state capitals and the area surrounding them, defying diplomatic attempts to broker a cease-fire and initiate peace talks. The U.N. has reported fighting in six of the country's 10 states.

The violence offered a cautionary lesson for foreign powers that attempted to forge a new African nation in a fractured region where alliances often are short-lived and ethnic divisions run deep.

The U.S. lobbied hard for the creation of South Sudan as part of a drive to help rebel groups get out from under the thumb of the government of Sudan, their erstwhile civil-war foe.
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