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South Sudan: Rebels, army forces clash in Bor

South Sudan: Rebels, army forces clash in Bor
Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - 4:46am

East African nations had set Tuesday as a deadline for the two sides fighting in South Sudan to talk. Instead, the they fought heavily in the town of Bor, undermining efforts to bring more than two weeks of violence to an end.

Bor, the capital of oil-rich Jonglei state, was recaptured by the army last week in a bloody battle. But the latest clashes show that rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar are unwilling to let go easily.

South Sudanese Deputy Information Minister Rachel Nyedak Paul told CNN the deadline for a ceasefire expires Tuesday afternoon.

President Salva Kiir, from South Sudan's Dinka ethnic group, has accused troops loyal to Machar, from the Nuer community, of trying to launch a coup. The two men have long been political rivals, and Kiir dismissed Machar, along with the Cabinet, in July.

Kiir told CNN's Arwa Damon in an interview Monday that African nations should have acted quickly to help quell the rebel forces.

As soon as an attempted coup took place and violence broke out, "the original leaders and all African leaders should have come in with military support," so that the rebels would be "crushed once and for all," he said.

If the other side, led by former South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar, does not agree to talk, then "we will fight," Kiir vowed. "In both cases," he said, peace "will be restored."

White Army

East African leaders on Friday gave the warring factions four days to lay down their arms.

If they don't, the leaders of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development warned they'll "take action" to stop the conflict that the United Nations says has killed more than 1,000 and forced some 121,000 from their homes.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, at a news conference, said that if Machar does not agree to talks, the other countries will "go for him." Asked what that means, he said, "defeat him."

Bor, a strategically important town in the center of the country, has been a flashpoint for violence.

Aguer warned at the weekend that about 20,000 ethnic Nuer from the so-called White Army, an ethnic militia loyal to Machar, were headed for Bor.

Paul, the deputy information minister, told CNN on Monday that government officials had persuaded the so-called White Army to retreat from the town.

But members of the militia are involved in Tuesday's clashes, according to Paul -- suggesting that the agreement broke down.

The youths are known as the White Army for the white powder they use to cover their skin as an insect repellant.

Fighting broke out on December 15 in the capital city of Juba. It then quickly spread across the country, with reports of mass killings that were lent credence by mass graves.

The violence has sparked a growing humanitarian crisis.

At least 122,000 people have been displaced since the fighting began, according to the United Nations. Some 63,000 have taken refuge in U.N. bases in the country.

South Sudan formally split from Sudan in 2011 after a referendum, following decades of conflict. Numerous armed groups remain active in the oil-rich country. 

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