Voice of America (Washington, DC)

South Sudan Unrest Displaces 181,000 - UNMISS

Photo: Hailemichael Gebrekrstos/UN
During the height of the fighting in Bor, civilians sought refuge at a compound of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (file photo).

Around 181,000 civilians have been forced from their homes by 15 days of fighting in South Sudan, a spokesman for the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said Monday.

Just over a third of the displaced have sought refuge at 13 U.N. peacekeeping facilities around South Sudan, UNMISS Acting Spokesman Joseph Contreras told VOA News by telephone from Juba.

"The biggest numbers are concentrated in the national capital, in Juba -- around 25,000 in total -- and an estimated 22,000 in the Upper Nile state capital of Malakal, where heavy fighting reignited" on Sunday, Contreras said.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has launched immunization campaigns for polio and measles at the U.N. facilities where civilians have sought refuge, and food is being distributed at at least one camp, Contreras said.

In Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, near which a U.N. reconnaissance mission spotted a group of armed youths at the weekend, the number of displaced persons sheltering at the U.N. compound has gone down from a high of around 17,000 last week to 7,000-8,000 on Monday, Contreras said.

Reuters news agency reported that thousands of people have fled Bor after the government warned that the youths spotted by the U.N. reconnaissance team planned to attack the town, which was retaken last week by government forces from rebel fighters allied with former Vice President Riek Machar.

South Sudan's government claims the youths that the U.N. reconnaissance mission says it saw around 50 kilometers northeast of Bor are members of the so-called "White Army" -- fighters from Machar's Nuer ethnic group who coat their skin with ash to make it appear white.

Contreras said it was impossible to tell if the youths were moving toward Bor or "in a stationary holding pattern" near the town.

Currently, forces loyal to President Salva Kiir continue to control Bor, he said.

Violence broke out in the South Sudanese capital on Dec. 15, in what Kiir said was an attempted coup orchestrated by fMachar, and quickly spread around the country.

Regional African mediators have brokered a ceasefire deal, which Kiir has agreed to. On Monday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said East African nations have warned Machar to comply with the ceasefire or face action by regional nations.

The United Nations has estimated that at least 1,000 people have died in the violence, which has taken on ethnic overtones, pitting members of Kiir's majority Dinka tribe against his rival Machar's Nuer ethnic group.

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