Foreigners have been leaving South Sudan en masse since the latest fighting broke out on Thursday. President Salva Kiir has called for an end to the bloodshed.
Despite repeated warnings from the United Nations, South Sudan’s leader President Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar have failed to peacefully lead the country. On Thursday, President Kiir urged for calm as fighting continued outside the capital Juba.
According to World Vision, one of the many humanitarian organizations working in the country, thirty thousand civilians have been displaced since the latest fighting broke out last week between the rival factions of Kiir and Machar. Jeremiah Young, World Visions’ Policy, Advocacy, and Peace building Advisor told DW, that his organization has been overwhelmed by the conflict. “We are going to try and distribute what we can,” he said, “World Vision is concerned that thousands of civilians are being displaced everyday,” Young said.
According to World Vision since 2013, the conflict in South Sudan has displaced more than 2.3 million people. More than half are estimated to be children. The renewed fighting in the capital has caused many more people to flee their homes and seek shelter and the UN base in Juba.
Massive evacuations of Foreigners
On Wednesday, Germany evacuated its nationals amid simmering tensions. About 100 Germans are currently in South Sudan; including 15 military observers with the UN mission (UNMISS) who will remain in the country. The United States followed suit by reducing its personnel, a common protocol whenever war breaks out in hotspots. Other countries that have evacuated their citizens are: Britain, France, Poland, Norway, Australia, Canada, and Kenya. But South Sudanese trying to flee the country by road have reported being turned back from the border.
The move by western countries to evacuate their citizens has been seen by some analysts as abandoning the world’s youngest of the country at the time of need. Magdi el Gizouli, a Sudanese academic, told DW that there has to be enough pressure on the South Sudanese government, and that the peace deal has to provide alternative leadership other than the two principals (Kiir and Machar). “The peace deal has to be re-worked in a way that keeps Salva Kiir and Riek Machar out of the balance of power,” he said.
On the question of whether an arms embargo as proposed by the UN Security Council, el Gizouli said that those were just symbolic gestures that will not yield much. “If you are a government and you want to get arms, you will, despite UN sanctions,” el Gizouli added.
It should be recalled that Kiir and Machar have long been political and military rivals. Kiir’s decision to sack Machar in 2013 led to the civil war erupting a few months later. They signed a peace deal in August 2015 and then argued over details amid sporadic fighting. Machar finally returned to Juba and resumed old post as vice president in April. But other key elements moves outlined in the peace deal, such as integrating their forces have stalled.