10,000 flee to Sudan from South Sudan fighting: UN

January 13, 2014 - 4:56:44 am

Soldiers sit at the back of a pick-up truck in the market in Malakal, Upper Nile state, yesterday. Malakal, the main town, was held by rebels for a few days in December. Most of the market stalls were burned or destroyed and few civilians are in the area.

KHARTOUM: Around 10,000 people have fled north to Sudan from South Sudan where government troops and rebels have battled for the past month, the UN’s refugee agency said yesterday.

“10,000, this is something we are confident with, that these are confirmed people who have crossed the border, who have been fleeing the conflict,” Nicolas Brass, external relations officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said.

Meanwhile, South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar’s demand for the release of detainees remains a stumbling block to a ceasefire deal aimed at halting violence in the world’s youngest state, a US envoy said yesterday.

More than three weeks of fighting, often along ethnic faultlines, has pitted President Salva Kiir’s SPLA government forces against rebels loyal to former vice president Machar and has brought the oil-exporting nation close to civil war. Although both sides have held talks in recent days in Addis Ababa in a bid to agree a ceasefire, there has been little progress after Kiir refused a rebel demand to release 11 detainees arrested in December over an alleged coup plot.

On Saturday, three African envoys of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional grouping of east African nations that initiated the talks, met Machar in an effort to agree the terms of truce, but he turned them down.

“Some of the major concerns he raised were the release of detainees which he has made a precondition since the beginning for the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreement,” said Donald Booth, the US envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, who accompanied the IGAD envoys.Reuters