More than 1,000 people have been killed since clashes erupted in
the capital, Juba, on December 15 and spread to oil-producing
regions, unsettling oil markets and raising fears of a civil war
between the main Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups.
The White Army — made up of Nuer youths who dust their bodies in
white ash — has in the past sided with Riek Machar, the Nuer former
vice president of South Sudan who the government accuses of starting
But a spokesman for the government of South Sudan's Unity state, now
controlled by forces loyal to Machar, on Sunday denied Machar was in
control of the White Army fighters, raising the prospect that the
violence was spreading beyond the control of widely-recognized
"The (White Army) are now not very far from Bor so an attack is
imminent," Sudan army (SPLA) spokesman Philip Aguer said by phone
from Juba, 190 km (120 miles) south of Bor by road.
Civilians had fled the town, crossing the White Nile river and
heading for the swamps, Information Minister Michael Makuei told
Reuters. Nuer militias massacred Dinkas in Bor during an outburst of
ethnic fighting in 1991.
The latest fighting has left South Sudan, one of the world's biggest
recipients of aid, facing its most significant crisis since it
gained independence from northern neighbor Sudan in 2011.
Western powers and bordering countries have scrambled to stem the
unrest, worried the conflict could spill over porous borders and
destabilize fragile East Africa.
South Sudan's neighbors have called on the warring factions to lay
down their arms and begin peace talks by December 31.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom and Ugandan President
Yoweri Museveni were in Juba on Monday to keep up the pressure.
MACHETES, STICKS AND GUNS
Bor's mayor, Nhial Majak Nhial, said he was urging civilians to
escape Bor, the capital of Jonglei state which lies to the north of
Juba as the White Army militia nears.
"They have attacked the village of Mathiang (18 miles from Bor),
killing civilians and burning civilian houses down. They are
butchering civilians," Nhial told Reuters from Bor, a low-rise dusty
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These militia columns were reportedly marching in remote areas
largely inaccessible to journalists and it was difficult to
independently verify their numbers or movements.
The White Army is recognized by the ash, prepared from burnt cow
dung, with which they cover themselves to ward off insects. They are
armed with machetes, sticks and guns.
SPLA spokesman Aguer said a small SPLA reconnaissance unit clashed
with White Army militia on Sunday night. Tribal elders over the
weekend persuaded many of the Nuer youths to abandon their march,
but officials said about 5,000 refused to turn back.
"People in Bor are scared," Makuei told Reuters. "Some of them have
turned towards the swamps, and motorboats are crossing frequently to
the other bank of the (White Nile) river."
The unrest in South Sudan and festering instability in Libya pushed
oil prices towards $113 per barrel. South Sudan, a nation the size
of France, has the third-largest oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa
after Angola and Nigeria, according to BP.
Regional leaders threw their weight behind the embattled Kiir last
week, saying they would not allow a democratically elected
government to be overthrown.
(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; editing by Richard Lough and Andrew
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