There’s been a mass evacuation of foreigners from war-torn South Sudan overnight, with several countries pulling their citizens out after days of vicious fighting.
The UK, Germany, India, Japan, Italy and Uganda have been flying out their nationals on military and chartered planes, as commercial flights in and out of the country remain grounded.
The evacuations have been possible thanks to a brief ceasefire between the warring factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar, but fighting in the capital Juba could flare up again at any time.
A deployment of UN peacekeepers from China remains in Juba, but they have been largely impotent in stopping the bloodshed thus far.
Over two million people have been displaced since the civil war began in 2013 (Reuters)
At least 272 people have been killed in fighting since July 9, the fifth anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, and it’s the first time the conflict has reached the city of Juba itself.
There are three New Zealand Defence Force members in South Sudan, but they are expected to continue their work in the country.
The NZDF say they are monitoring their situation closely.
- So what happens now?
Although the two rival factions signed a peace treaty in August last year, the ethnic nature of the conflict means fighting could yet go on for months or even years.
The two ethnic groups are the Dinka, loyal to President Kiir, and the Nuer, loyal to Vice-President Machar.
The two men have called for peace, but appear unable to stop the violence, rape and famine that are crippling the country.
Nuer fighters loyal to Vice-President Machar show off their arsenal of AK-47s (Reuters)
Over 16,000 child soldiers are estimated to have been pressed into the rival groups.
The US is deploying 50 additional soldiers to help secure its personnel and facilities in Juba, while the US Embassy there is also organising flights to evacuate non-essential staff and US citizens who want to leave.
Vice-President Machar has urged the UN to establish a “buffer zone” between his Nuer forces, and those of the government’s Dinka army, and the UN is considering the request by sending in an additional brigade of peacekeepers.
Further international military intervention in South Sudan now seems inevitable.