Yesterday, the United Nations reported that a facility in Akobo, South Sudan operated by the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) was attacked by unknown assailants. Today, the UN confirmed that an estimated two thousand individuals, believed to be from the Lour Nuer ethnic group, attacked the facility where civilians from the Dinka ethnic group had been sheltering. Some thirty-four thousand civilians are believed to be seeking shelter from the violence at UNMISS facilities in the country. Twenty civilians and two Indian peacekeepers were killed in the attack. The UN condemned the attack. United States President Obama also described the situation in the country yesterday by saying that “South Sudan stands at the precipice.” The US has deployed troops from the East Africa Task Force to bolster security at diplomatic facilities in the country and has already been working to evacuate foreign nationals, as have other nations.
The attack is among the more serious incidents following a surge of inter-communal violence that followed the announcement on December 16th that the government had defeated a coup. President Salva Kiir, a member of the Dinka ethnic group, subsequently blamed former Vice President Riek Machar, a member of the Nuer ethnic group, as being behind the coup. On again-off again partners in the rebel campaign against the Sudanese government, Kiir and Machar subsequently had a falling out over allegations of Dinka domination of the now independent country’s political and other institutions. Machar has continued to deny involvement in any coup attempt and suggested that Kiir is attempting to turn him into a scapegoat to distract from various issues the country is experiencing. Today, Machar suggested, however, that rebellion was afoot and that the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the national army of the country, had become “fed up” with President Kiir.
The UN also warned today the continued violence in Central African Republic threatens to create a humanitarian crisis in the country. Thousands have been reported killed and an estimated seven hundred and fifty thousand people are believed to have been displaced in inter-communal fighting between nominally Muslim and Christian militias.
The violence spiked at the beginning of the month after attacks in the capital Bangui by forces reportedly loyal to former President Francois Bozize. Bozize was ousted by current President Michel Djotodia in March after Djotodia’s Seleka rebel movement marched on the capital. Djotodia subsequently ordered the Seleka movement disbanded, but former rebels continued to operate in various areas, including much of the capital’s suburbs and the security situation rapidly deteriorated. So called anti-balaka militias were formed in various communities to defend against the activities of the ex-Seleka rebels and violence steadily increased, leading to a French intervention, Operation Sangaris, and the expansion of the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) in the country.
The African Union’s MISCA peacekeeping operation formally took over from the previous AU mission, Peace and Consolidation Mission in the Central African Republic (MICOPAX), today. MISCA and the French operation are currently operating with a UN mandate. The US had been working to support MISCA by helping to rapidly deploy African peacekeepers from Burundi. Today, the US completed this operation, which involved the deployment of a full Burundian light infantry battalion and associated equipment to CAR. French President Francois Hollande has also said that the European Union is considering launching a peacekeeping effort in the country next month.