Conflict & Justice

So far there are few signs of any progress in ending the violence in South Sudan

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Credit: Hakim George/Reuters

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir meets with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta in Juba on December 26, 2013.

Thursday was another day of violence in South Sudan with heavy fighting continuing in some cities.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)

Many residents have left their homes to take shelter in camps provided by the United Nations. According to Heidi Vogt, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who is in Juba, the city is facing a humanitarian crisis with more than 20,000 people taking shelter at the UN camps.

Violence began 11 days ago, with forces loyal to President Salva Kiir fighting those who support the country's former Vice President Riek Machar. Hilde Johnson, head of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, said on Thursday that "well over 1000" people have been killed so far.

But she said military reinforcements for the peacekeeping force and critically needed equipment should arrive in the country within 48 hours.

Vogt says while Juba is quiet, fighting is happening in the oil-producing state. Meanwhile, those who have fled the fighting and took shelter in the UN camps, recounted harrowing stories of targeting between the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups.

"What people have told me is that soldiers of the Dinka ethnicity started hunting down civilians of the Nuer ethnicity in the city. One person said he was hiding under his bed in his house and soldier burst in, started talking to us in the Dinka language and when we couldn't reply in the right accent, he started shooting and killed one of the family members," Vogt says.

Vogt says what is happening in South Sudan has exposed divisions that have existed for decades, well before South Sudan became an independent country.

"People in South Sudan say we had all these hopes, but now it just seems it's returned to the same way people killed each other," Vogt says.

The international community, as well as neighboring countries, are trying to get Kiir and Machar to the negotiating table.

"We are hearing a lot from diplomats about progress in these talks, but the one thing we have to recognize is the talks at this point are only with President Kiir. Until Riek Machar is part of these talks, it's hard to see any kind of progress," Vogt says.

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