Obama says South Sudan on 'precipice' of civil war

Obama says South Sudan on 'precipice' of civil war

PanARMENIAN.Net - U.S. President Barack Obama has warned that South Sudan is on the "precipice" of a civil war, after clashes in the capital Juba spread around the country, BBC News reports.

He said 45 military personnel had been deployed to South Sudan to protect American citizens and property.

At least 500 people are believed to have died since last weekend, when President Salva Kiir accused his ex-deputy Riek Machar of a failed coup. An estimated 34,000 people have taken refuge at United Nations compounds.

Two Indian peacekeepers were killed on Thursday, Dec 19, when a UN base sheltering refugees at Akobo, Jonglei state, came under attack, the UN mission to the country, UNMISS, said on Friday. An injured Indian soldier was taken to hospital, it said.

Earlier reports said three Indian peacekeepers had been killed in the attack.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said more casualties were feared, and he did not know the fate of more than 30 Dinka civilians sheltering at the base.

Security at the compound has since been increased.

Sudan suffered a 22-year civil war that left more than a million people dead before the South became independent in 2011.

The recent unrest has pitted gangs from the Nuer ethnic group of Machar against Dinkas - the majority group to which Kiir belongs.

"South Sudan stands at the precipice. Recent fighting threatens to plunge South Sudan back into the dark days of its past," President Obama said in a letter to Congress. "Inflammatory rhetoric and targeted violence must cease. All sides must listen to the wise counsel of their neighbors, commit to dialogue and take immediate steps to urge calm and support reconciliation."

Following decades of conflict, weapons such as machineguns are widely available in much of South Sudan.

In a statement, UNMISS said conditions for displaced people in Juba and Bor were "challenging". It said in some of the UN bases, some people had been able "to construct basic shelters with available materials, but many have no or limited access to shelter".

A delegation of East African foreign ministers has travelled to Juba to try to mediate in the crisis.

South Sudan's government insists the clashes are over power and politics, not between ethnic groups. The oil-rich country has struggled to achieve a stable government since becoming independent.

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