Nations move civilians out of South Sudan, but politics as testy as ever
Evacuations out of South Sudan have been as rocky as the political processes of the world's newest nation.
Juba, South Sudan — Some South Sudanese, even those with dual U.S. citizenship, are not being allowed to leave the country, even as the United States, India and other countries continued Thursday to evacuate their citizens while a fragile cease-fire appeared to hold.
An Associated Press reporter at the airport in the capital, Juba, saw authorities refuse about 20 dual South Sudanese-U.S. citizens from leaving the country, despite the presence of three US Embassy staff.
One of the dual citizens said that if they are allowed to leave as U.S. citizens, the authorities confiscate their South Sudanese passports.
A spokesman for the US Embassy did not immediately comment. The US Embassy has said it was arranging flights out of the country for Americans.
South Sudanese trying to flee the country by road have reported being turned back from the border as they seek safety amid fears of a return to civil war.
In a statement, Amnesty International said it had received reports from two charter airline companies that "National Security Service officers have ordered them not to carry South Sudanese nationals, particularly men."
The London-based rights group called the restrictions "totally unacceptable" and called for safe passage for civilians.
"We definitely hope that people who wish to leave South Sudan, regardless of their nationality, for their own safety are able to do so without hindrance," said the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Stephane Dujarric.
The chaos of evacuation comes as governments and international institutions debate how to shore up the testy peace agreement, as The Christian Science Monitor's Jason Thomson wrote:
The difficulty with the peace agreement was that it did little more than return South Sudan’s politics to the same fragile state they were in when the war broke out in December 2013, without addressing the undercurrents and rivalries that led to the hostilities in the first place.
Indeed, the struggle between the two key rivals, President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar, reflects the wider ethnocultural tensions between Dinka and Nuer that have fueled many of the divisions roiling the country since its inception, and thus the violence, as John Mbaku, an economist and senior fellow with the Africa Growth Initiative of the Brookings Institution, explains.
“The war has already resumed, and if nothing is done, we will have an escalation,” Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., told the Monitor. “What the last week has done is demonstrate that there is no option of pursuing the current strategy.”
A convoy of Ugandan troops moving into South Sudan's capital for evacuations was ambushed by gunmen who were repulsed following an exchange of fire, Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, the Ugandan military spokesman, said. Three Ugandan soldiers were hurt, he said.
Other countries, including India, were arranging flights for their citizens. Some evacuees have already landed in neighboring Kenya and Uganda and elsewhere.
Germany's foreign office said those evacuated on Wednesday included three wounded Chinese peacekeepers from the U.N. mission in South Sudan. A fourth wounded Chinese peacekeeper with leg injuries was airlifted Thursday to Uganda.
In Juba, concerns grew about abuses committed during the chaos. Dujarric said reports include "allegations of a killing of at least one South Sudanese national working for an international NGO, as well as rapes, including of an international NGO staff. U.N. staff members have also been assaulted."
The World Food Program said it was outraged by the looting of its main warehouse in Juba, which had held more than 4,500 metric tons of food as well as trucks, generators and other supplies for countrywide operations.