Foreigners flee amid fragile ceasefire in South Sudan capital
Published 12/07/2016 | 16:16
Embassies and aid organisations in South Sudan are evacuating staff from the capital, Juba, as a precarious calm settled over the city following several days of deadly clashes between government and opposition forces.
UN officials said several hundred people have already been killed, including civilians seeking refuge, many of whom were targeted on the basis of their ethnicity.
South Sudan's government said at least 272 people have been killed, including 33 civilians, in fighting that broke out on Thursday between opposing army forces which raised fears of a return to civil war.
President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader, first vice president Riek Machar, declared separate ceasefires on Monday night.
Since then, military trucks have driven through Juba, using megaphones to order soldiers back to barracks.
The UN said It is "hugely worrying" that the fighting appeared to be spreading outside the capital.
The US Embassy, Doctors Without Borders and the International Medical Corps are among organisations pulling out their staff from South Sudan.
Private chartered planes have flown foreigners out of Juba's reopened airport throughout Tuesday, as regional carriers including Kenya Airways cancelled flights.
Japan has dispatched military aircraft to evacuate its citizens. Uganda will also send troops to Juba to ensure its citizens leave safely.
South Sudanese nationals trying to escape the capital were prevented from doing so by authorities, according to a security worker in Juba.
Aid groups have warned about the lack of clean water for the tens of thousands of people sheltering in various sites around Juba as water tankers have not been able to make deliveries.
The fighting in Juba has severely threatened a peace deal signed last year between Mr Kiir and Mr Machar to end a civil war which has killed tens of thousands since late 2013.
The agreement brought them and their supporters into a transitional coalition government in April.
In the latest fighting, government troops lined up tanks and fired on a UN base where tens of thousands of civilians are sheltering, according to witnesses. At least eight civilians in the UN camp were killed in the crossfire.
Government officials have repeatedly accused the civilians inside the UN bases of being rebels or rebel supporters.
Two Chinese peacekeepers with the UN mission were also killed.
The government also overran one of Mr Machar's two bases in Juba, deploying helicopter gunships and tanks against opposition forces carrying only light arms.
Some 35 of Mr Machar's bodyguards were killed in the latest clashes.
South Sudan's civil war exposed deep ethnic fault lines in the country, pitting the Dinka supporters of Mr Kiir against the Nuer followers of Mr Machar.
The latest fighting has awakened fears that South Sudan's other ethnic groups will be drawn into the conflict.