The African Union today called on the parties in South Sudan to cease fighting and engage in talks to prevent an all out civil war in the country. The United States also said a political solution may be a possibility. South Sudan has seen an explosion of inter-communal violence since the government reportedly defeated an attempted coup at the beginning of last week. Members of the majority Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups have since engaged in open conflict against each other and against international forces in the country. Anti-government Nuer rebels have since claimed total control over the oil-rich Unity state and Bor, the capital of Jonglei state. South Sudanese government troops are reportedly massing for an assault to reclaim Bor.
The fighting, which along with what has been happening in neighboring Central African Republic, has led to fears of a repeat of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, has exposed major issues in the world’s youngest nation. President Salva Kiir, a member of the Dinka ethnic group blamed Riek Machar, a one-time partner in the fight against the Sudanese government and former Vice President. Machar, a member of the Nuer ethnic group, denied any involvement, saying that President Kiir was seeking to inflame ethnic tension. Machar has, however, expressed tacit support for the Nuer rebellion. In addition to claiming control over Unity state and Bor, reported Nuer militiamen also attacked a facility operated by the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) last week, killing UN peacekeepers and civilians fleeing the violence. US CV-22B Osprey aircraft attempting a rescue of US nationals in Bor last week were also fired upon, leading to the operation being scrapped and four US servicemen being wounded.
Despite the push for talks, the continuing violence has reportedly led the commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to reposition forces within East Africa. Most notably, this involved the movement of elements of the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response (SPMAGTF-CR) from Moron, Spain to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. The mission into Bor last week was flown from Djibouti by members of the East Africa Response Force (EARF). Both SPMAGTF-CR and the EARF are products of a review of crisis response capabilities that came after the attack on the US consulate and associated facilities in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012. The aircraft flown to Bor were then diverted to Entebbe, Uganda, another hub for US operations in the region, after the mission was aborted. The wounded servicemen were then flown to Nairobi, Kenya by C-17 for medical treatment. It was also reported today that three of the four individuals would be medically evacuated to Landstuhl Army Hospital, in Germany. The fourth would be moved as soon as his condition stabilized. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has also suggested reinforcing UNMISS, which currently has almost seven thousand personnel in South Sudan.