African leaders launch peace talks in South Sudan
African leaders start talks in South Sudan to try and broker a settlement as fighting rages on between government forces and rebels in the country’s north.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn arrived in Juba on Thursday and met with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir later in the day, said Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth.
Another meeting is due to be held on Friday in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
Meanwhile, the government said its troops were battling forces loyal to former vice president, Riek Machar, in Malakal, the capital city of Upper Nile State.
Army is also trying to drive out rebels from Bentiu, the capital city of the key oil-producing Unity State.
The crisis in South Sudan began in mid-December when a power struggle started between the president and his ex-deputy, whom he accused of attempting to stage a coup.
The violence – which has pitted Kiir’s Dinka tribe against Machar’s Nuer tribe – is now quickly spreading, dividing the country along ethnic lines.
Both President Kiir and former VP, Machar, have expressed willingness to negotiate an end to the conflict that has already left hundreds dead and thousands more displaced.
The United Nations is investigating reports of mass ethnic killings while the UN humanitarian office has announced that aid agencies need $166 million to provide basic supplies to the displaced.
The UN says some 58,000 people have taken refuge in and around its bases in the country while more than 92,000 have fled their homes as the country moves toward a civil war.