South Sudan rebels agree to talks as fighting ragesReuters . Juba
South Sudan’s government and rebels sent delegates to peace talks in Ethiopia on Tuesday, officials said, but ethnic fighting raged on in the world’s youngest nation and both sides battled for control of a state capital.
Militias loyal to former vice president Riek Machar fought their way on Tuesday morning into the centre of Bor, the main town in the vast, underdeveloped Jonglei state and the site of an ethnic massacre in 1991, witnesses said.
Machar told the BBC his forces had taken the town while the army said it was outnumbered but still in control of several areas.
Western and regional powers have pushed both sides to end the fighting that has already killed at least 1,000 people, cut South Sudan’s oil output and raised fears of a full-blown civil war in the heart a fragile region.
The Ethiopian government said Machar had agreed to dialogue and his representatives were due to arrive in Addis Ababa later on Tuesday. Machar told the BBC he was not ready to accept the ceasefire demanded by neighbouring states.
‘We are going there,’ the South Sudan foreign minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said, referring to Ethiopia. He added there was no chance of President Salva Kiir agreeing to share power with Machar in talks. The clashes erupted on December 15 with fighting among a group of soldiers in Juba. The violence quickly spread to half of the country’s ten states, cleaving the nation along the ethnic faultline of Machar’s Nuer group and Kiir’s Dinkas.
Kiir accused his long-term political rival Machar of starting the fighting in an effort to seize power. Machar denied the charge, but took to the bush and acknowledged leading soldiers battling the government. On Tuesday he said he was also leading the ‘White Army’ militia fighting in Bor.
The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, said on Monday east African nations had agreed to move in and defeat Machar if he rejected the ceasefire offer, threatening to turn the fighting into a regional conflict.
There was no immediate confirmation of the pact from other nations.
Bor was briefly seized by the rebels early in the conflict before being retaken by government troops after several days of heavy fighting.
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