200 dead in South Sudan
JUBA, South Sudan — Some 200 people fleeing warfare died after a boat crossing the Nile River sank, a South Sudanese military official said Tuesday, as fighting between rebels and government forces moved closer to the national capital.
Warfare in the world’s newest state has displaced more than 400,000 people since mid-December, with the front lines constantly shifting as loyalist troops and renegade forces gain and lose territory in battles often waged along ethnic lines.
Lt. Col. Philip Aguer, the South Sudanese military spokesman, said there was fighting about 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of the South Sudanese capital of Juba. Heavy fighting also erupted Tuesday in Malakal, the capital of oil-producing Upper Nile state, which renegade forces briefly held before government troops retook it, he said.
As control of certain regions has changed, tens of thousands of residents have fled their homes to escape fighting that often pits the Dinka ethnic group of President Salva Kiir against the Nuer group of Riek Machar, the former vice president who now commands renegade forces. A boat on the Nile — fleeing the violence in Upper Nile State and carrying mostly women and children— sank on Saturday, killing at least 200 people, according to Aguer.
The violence has displaced 413,000 people, including more than 73,000 who sought refuge in neighboring countries, according to the United Nations. Some of the fiercest battles have been fought in Jonglei, South Sudan’s largest state, where for months government troops had been trying to put down a local rebellion.
South Sudan’s government now says it has made peace with the leader of that rebellion, David Yau Yau, a renegade colonel from the Murle tribe who appears to have cut a deal with the Dinka-led government against Machar’s mostly Nuer forces.
South Sudan has a history of ethnic rivalry, and its many tribes have long battled each other in recurring cycles of violence.
Nearly 10 000 people have been killed in the latest fighting, according to one estimate by an International Crisis Group analyst. (AP)