US demands immediate end to South Sudan fighting amid fears of full-blown conflict

South Sudanese policemen and soldiers stand guard along a street following renewed fighting in South Sudan's capital Juba.
South Sudanese policemen and soldiers stand guard along a street following renewed fighting in South Sudan's capital Juba.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP, REUTERS) - The United States demanded an immediate end to renewed fighting in the capital of South Sudan on Sunday (July 10), ordering all non-essential personnel out of the troubled country.

Renewed fighting erupted in South Sudan's capital on Sunday and forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar said his residence was attacked by the president's troops, raising fears of a slide back into full-blown conflict in the five-year-old nation.

At least 272 people have been killed in the fighting, a Health Ministry source told Reuters early on Sunday.

"The United States strongly condemns the latest outbreak of fighting in Juba today between forces aligned with President Salva Kiir Mayardit and those aligned with First Vice President Riek Machar Teny, including reports we have that civilian sites may have been attacked," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

"In response to ongoing violence in South Sudan, the Department of State ordered today the departure of non-emergency personnel from the US Embassy in Juba."

Urging Americans in the country to take security precautions, he warned that "the embassy's ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Juba is extremely limited."

Separately, the United Nations Security Council pressed South Sudan's neighbours Sunday to help end renewed fighting in the capital, asking for additional peacekeepers.

In a unanimous declaration, the council's 15 member countries also demanded that President Salva Kiir and his Vice President Riek Machar "do their utmost to control their respective forces, urgently end the fighting and prevent the spread of violence, and genuinely commit themselves to the full and immediate implementation of the peace agreement, including the permanent ceasefire and redeployment of military forces from Juba."

A Chinese UN peacekeeper was killed and several Chinese and Rwandan peacekeepers injured, Japan's UN ambassador, Koro Bessho, said on Sunday after the UN Security Council was briefed on the situation. Japan is council president for July.

The UN mission said UN compounds in Juba had been hit by small arms and heavy weapons fire.

"The Security Council expressed their readiness to consider enhancing (the UN mission) UNMISS to better ensure that UNMISS and the international community can prevent and respond to violence in South Sudan," Bessho told reporters.