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African Leaders Try to Negotiate Peace in South Sudan

Flaring violence since December 15 in struggle between President Salva Kiir and former deputy Riek Machar. Over 1,000 thought to be dead.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 12/27/2013, 12:58 PM

South Sudan President Salva Kiir
South Sudan President Salva Kiir
Office of Danny Danon

African leaders arrived in beleaguered South Sudan to hold peace talks Thursday. Ongoing violence broke out on December 15 in the fledgling country, and has already left more than a thousand estimated dead.

In response to the fighting, UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon on Monday asked the UN Security Council to dispatch 5,500 more peacekeepers to the country.

The violence centers around a struggle between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, who was fired in July and is recently accused of plotting a coup.

The conflict further shows an ethnic divide in the state founded in 2011, as Kiir is an ethnic Dinka, while Machar is from the Nuer tribe, reports BBC.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met with Kiir on Thursday to try and broker peace between the two sides.

The fighting has been most intense in Bentiu, where government troops are trying to recapture the city from Machar's forces. The city of Malakal, also in the country's north, has witnessed heavy fighting as well, according to Al Jazeera.

The two cities are in the country's oil producing regions, raising concerns that the oil revenues which supply roughly 99% of country's budget may be harmed.

"We are moving toward them and we will flush them out like we did in Bor," said South Sudan Information Minister Makuei Lueth, in reference to a city recaptured earlier in the week.

While a diplomatic solution is being pursued, Lueth noted there has been no contact with Machar, adding "for us, we are not talking with him."

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday contacted his South Sudanese counterpart, promising to send humanitarian aid to the ally country. It was reported in January that Israel made a deal to buy oil from the African nation, which gained independence in 2011 after a long and bloody struggle with the Arab Republic of Sudan to its north.