South Sudan Rebels Seize Town, Threaten Fragile Stability

South Sudan Rebels Seize Town, Threaten Fragile Stability

Fighting has broken out across South Sudan as rebel groups launched offensives against the government. It appears that the recent coup attempt on Sunday has destabilized the government and created an opportunity for rebels to take advantage of. So far, unrest across the country has claimed the lives of at least 500 people.

Rebel groups launching military action in South Sudan

On Sunday, an attempted coup was thwarted in the capital city of Juba. It is believed that the coup was led by Riek Machar, a former Vice President who was sacked this past summer. 10 senior officials have already been arrested, including a former finance minister. Tensions are heightened along various tribal and ethnic lines, further complicating issues.

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With the coup destabilizing the capital, some rebel groups operating in South Sudan appear to be launching military offensives. While the military successfully retained control of the capital, fighting has spread throughout the country. Fighting quickly spread to Bor, the capital of the eastern Jonglei state and Torit, the capital of Eastern Equatoria. Government troops have already conceded Bor to the rebels as violence now threatens to destabilize the other country.

Relations between South Sudan and Sudan

It is not currently known if rebel groups are acting to support those leaders who attempted to stage the coup, or if they are merely taking advantage of the situation. In the past, South Sudan has accused its northern neighbor, Sudan, of supplying and aiding rebel troops. Relations between South Sudan and Sudan, which split in 2011 following years of civil war and intense international pressure, have remained tense.

South Sudan remains among the poorest countries in Africa, but is home to a vast wealth of oil resources. Unfortunately, conflicts over this oil might simply fuel further violence, rather than economic development. Already South Sudan has found itself in a serious row with Sudan, which still owns many of the oil pipelines needed to get oil out of the country.

Experts believe that these tensions could boil over into a full-blown civil war between Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups, which are the two largest in the country. The South Sudan government claims that the coup itself, however, was not caused by tribal issues, but instead the rogue actions of a few leaders looking to seize more power.

The international community and United Nations have so far been quiet, likely owing to the uncertainty surrounding the situation. The UN Peace mission in the country is largely laying low. The United States has urged its citizens to evacuate the country, while the United Kingdom has already organized an air lift to get its citizens out of the country.

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