JUBA: African leaders will on Friday discuss a spiralling crisis in South Sudan as the United Nations (UN) speeds up the deployment of extra troops in a bid to stem the violence sweeping across the world’s youngest nation.
A day after the leaders of Kenya and Ethiopia claimed “good progress” in peace talks held in Juba, east African leaders are due to meet in Nairobi to further efforts to end the raging ethnic violence.
As the international community scrambles to halt the country’s slide into civil war the United Nations on Thursday (Friday in Manila) announced extra troops and “critical assets” like helicopters would be on the ground by Saturday.
“We are working on 48 hours delivery of several of the critical assets that we need,” the world body’s special envoy to the violence-wracked country, Hilde Johnson, told journalists via videoconference from Juba.
She stressed that the growing violence needed to be met with “unprecedented speed.”
Tensions in the country, which won independence from Sudan only two years ago, erupted into violent conflict on December 15 amid a vicious fight between troops loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and fighters backing his sacked vice president, Riek Machar.
Fighting has now spread to half of South Sudan’s 10 states.
The UN Security Council agreed Tuesday to nearly double the size of its mission known as UNMISS, allowing for up to 12,500 soldiers and 1,300 police, after the violence raged out of control.
Thousands of people have died, according to the United Nations, and tens of thousands of civilians are seeking protection at UN bases in the country.
While the conflict appeared to start as a power struggle—with Kiir alleging a foiled coup attempt and Machar saying it was really a purge of potential challengers to the president—it rapidly took on an ethnic dimension.
The violence now cleaves along a divide pitting members of Kiir’s Dinka tribe against Machar’s Nuer clansmen.
International diplomatic efforts are running parallel to the UN effort to try to rein in the violence.
The United States, which was instrumental in South Sudan winning independence, has warned it will cut off aid if Kiir is ousted in a coup.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn flew into Juba for talks with Kiir.