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Hundreds of South Sudanese refugees lost in sinking boat

Boat survivor

Boat survivor

(GIN) — Some 200 civilians, mostly women and children, were lost in the waters of the Nile river as their crowded boat overturned at sea. The victims were fleeing heavy fighting that has been moving closer to the capital, Juba.

Fighting between the government forces of President Salva Kiir and troops loyal to the former vice president, Riek Machar, has displaced more than 400,000 people since mid-December, with the front lines constantly shifting. Nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the latest fighting, according to an estimate by the International Crisis Group analyst.

President Yoweri Museveni of neighboring Uganda, who supports Kiir’s government, has entered the fray, sending helicopters and fighter jets. Ugandan officials deny their forces are involved in active combat, but a spokesman for the rebels, former South Sudan Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Kong, said Ugandans are bombing rebel positions.

Another pro-rebel official, Gideon Gatpan Thaor, said fighters described being hit with a smoky weapon that burns, possibly white phosphorous.

Ugandan journalist Milton Allimadi questioned the interference by Pres. Museveni. “Why is general Museveni allowed to deploy to South Sudan in a domestic conflict between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, just weeks after his terror-army that committed war crimes was defeated in Congo?” he asked.

Syracuse Prof. Horace Campbell weighed in: “In every society there are political struggles. However, when there are large reserves of petroleum and other resources these political struggles take on added dimensions and become regionalized and internationalized.”

“The ongoing talks in Addis Ababa must be the basis for a credible ceasefire and the disarming of the factions,” continued Campbell, writing in the online newsletter Pambazuka. “Peace activists internationally must expose the duplicity of foreign forces that are covertly supporting this militarized disruption of the newest African state.”

 

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