SEVERAL countries are evacuating their citizens from South Sudan following days of fighting that have seen hundreds of people killed.
That so many foreigners were still in the country after it plunged back into war in December 2013 two years after independence, is a remarkable sign that the world was disappointed, but hadn’t yet given up on South Sudan.
It waits to be seen whether the latest revival in the conflict between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar, might be what finally forces resignation.
The US has deployed 47 troops to South Sudan to protect U.S. citizens and its embassy since the outbreak of deadly violence.
They will “will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that their presence is no longer needed,” the White House said Wednesday.
The combat-ready troops arrived in South Sudan on Tuesday. An additional 130 military personnel currently in Djibouti are also prepared to provide support as necessary, the White House said.
The U.S. Embassy said it was arranging flights out of the country Thursday for Americans to Entebbe, Uganda.
Kenya Airways, the key commercial flights provider to South Sudan, has canceled trips to the capital of Juba.
Uganda too began evacuating citizens from the country on Thursday.
After the civil war erupted in 2013, Uganda’s forces also crossed into South Sudan to assist with evacuations, but then stayed on to help President Salva Kiir secure the capital Juba. The troops withdrew late last year, but are seen as having helped keep Kiir in power.
This time, Uganda said its troops, who entered South Sudan in trucks and armoured vehicles, would stay in a town outside Juba and focus on evacuations.
But a Ugandan official was quoted by news agencies saying a fresh flare-up could mean a longer stay, without giving a timeline.
However, a truce called by Kiir and Machar seems to be holding.
In addition to the US and Uganda, other countries too continued to evacuate their citizens from the country.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced Thursday that two aircraft had landed in the capital, Juba, for evacuations.
Other evacuees have already landed in neighbouring Kenya and Uganda and elsewhere.
Germany’s foreign office said those evacuated on Wednesday included three wounded Chinese peacekeepers from the U.N. mission in South Sudan and citizens from Britain, France, Poland, Norway, Australia, Canada, Kenya, Sudan (Khartoum) and other countries.
But South Sudanese trying to flee the country by road are reportedly being turned back from the border.
A fourth wounded Chinese peacekeeper with leg injuries was airlifted Thursday to Uganda. Two Chinese peacekeepers were killed in the juba attack.
“We are all shocked by that, and we condemn strongly this attack,” said the Chinese ambassador to Uganda, Zhao Yali.
About 40 other Chinese nationals were also brought to Uganda on another flight Thursday.