Juba: Armed rebels have been said to be in control of some of South Sudan`s oil fields, raising questions of how long the country`s oil will flow and whether Sudan could enter the conflict which showed no signs of ending.
President Salva Kiir implored his country to turn away from ethnic violence and met yesterday with foreign ministers from neighbouring states, including Kenya and Ethiopia, who flew into Juba, the capital, to help calm tensions after a week of ethnic strife that is estimated to have killed hundreds.
Kiir did not speak publicly, but the government`s Twitter feed attributed this quote to him: "Those who may want to take the law into their hands, the long arm of the government will get them."
The UN Security Council expressed "grave alarm" at the rapidly deteriorating security crisis, condemned targeted ethnic violence and demanded an end to the fighting.
The UN`s most powerful body urged the president and ousted vice president Riek Machar "to demonstrate leadership in bringing a swift and peaceful resolution to this crisis."
France`s UN Ambassador, Gerard Araud, the current council president, told reporters that Kiir and the widow of South Sudan`s rebel hero John Garang, who led the country`s fight for independence, have agreed to enter an unconditional dialogue.
There was no word yet from Machar, who is believed to be in hiding.
Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, earlier this week said an attempted coup had triggered the violence, and the blame was placed on Machar, an ethnic Nuer. But officials have since said a fight between Dinka and Nuer members of the presidential guard triggered the fighting Sunday night that has since spread across the country. Machar`s ouster from the country`s No. 2 political position earlier this year had stoked ethnic tensions.
The Security Council said the violence resulted from a "political dispute among the country`s political leaders" that could affect not only South Sudan, but neighbouring countries and the entire region.
"The political crisis could lead to a general and political civil war if we do not solve it very quickly through dialogue," Araud warned.
Fighting continued to spread yesterday in Jonglei and Unity state, an oil area, as armed groups opposed to the nation`s military emerged, said a South Sudan expert communicating with combatants and UN officials in strife-torn regions outside the capital.