People displaced from fighting in Bor arrive at Minkaman in
South Sudan. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu (SOUTH SUDAN
Scores of South Sudanese drowned when a packed ferry
capsized in the White Nile near the capital of an oil-producing
region where government forces and rebels have fought for
control, officials said.
A government spokesman said about 200 people died as they
took to the river to flee clashes in Malakal, a major transit
point and administrative centre of Upper Nile state.
Another official in charge of disaster relief said he could
not give a death toll because of poor communications with the
"The boat was overloaded with people," said Banak Joshua, the
director general of disaster management at the Humanitarian
Affairs Ministry. He declined to say how many died.
"Most of the casualties were children because the adults
probably swam to safety," he told Reuters.
Rebels led by former vice president Riek Machar said they had
seized control of Malakal, which lies 530km north of the
capital, a report denied by President Salva Kiir's government
which said their rivals were repelled.
"There has been fighting today until 5pm. The rebels have
been ... repulsed," said Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek
Ateny, responding to the rebel claim which was made on the
sidelines of peace talks in Addis Ababa.
He said 200 people had died after the ferry capsized and
accused rebels of driving panicked residents out of town.
Fighting that erupted in mid-December has re-opened ethnic
faultlines. According to one estimate, the conflict may have
killed as many as 10,000 people, although there is no
official toll for those killed in the desperately poor
The United Nations says 500,000 people have fled their homes,
with more than 70,000 of them fleeing abroad.
Peace talks in the Ethiopian capital that began this month
have made little obvious progress till now, with the
government rejecting rebel demands for the release of 11 of
their political allies jailed after they were accused of
attempting a coup.
Michael Makuei, government spokesman at the talks, said talks
had moved forward and the two sides had agreed to discuss the
cessation of hostilities and detainees separately.
"We are progressing well, and probably by tomorrow
(Wednesday) we may agree on the cessation of hostilities," he
said. "Thereafter we will move to the other topic which is
the issue of the detainees."
In Uganda, which sent troops to South Sudan days after
fighting erupted last month, opposition lawmakers said the
government should have sought an international mandate for
the deployment and should set a time limit on the troops'
"For us to be involved in South Sudan we must follow
international regulations," opposition MP Jack Wamanga said
during a parliamentary debate, called to seek parliamentary
approval for the move.
He said Uganda should have sought backing from the United
Nations, the African Union or IGAD, the regional African
group that is sponsoring the peace talks in Ethiopia.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, himself a former
rebel-turned-statesman whose supporters dominate parliament,
backed Kiir's SPLA rebels during Sudan's civil war before
South Sudan split away in 2011.
The government has not said how many troops it has sent to
its northern neighbour, but last month military sources told
Reuters it involved deploying hundreds of soldiers.
Officials initially said the soldiers would help evacuate
Ugandans stuck in South Sudan but has since admitted they
were protecting Juba's airport and the presidential palace.
Rebels have accused Uganda of deeper support for Kiir's
forces, including mounting air raids. Uganda denies this.