Gunfire heard in Juba as S Sudan talks begin

Violence reported in nation's capital as Ethiopian government says talks between rival sides have begun in Addis Ababa.

    Gunfire heard in Juba as S Sudan talks begin
    Latest round of talks opened as heavy gunfire was reported in Juba [AFP]

    Heavy gunfire has been heard in South Sudan's capital, as mediators announced that direct meetings between the nation's warring sides had begun.

    Explosions from reported artillery shells and the rattle of automatic gunfire were heard on Saturday night in Juba's key government district, where most ministries, the presidential palace and the parliament are located, the AFP news agency reported.

    The violence came as Ethiopian government announced the latest attempt had started to strike a ceasefire deal to end nearly three weeks of conflict. The announcement was contrary to reports earlier in the day that they had been delayed. 

    "We wish all our best for the successful conclusion of the direct peace talks of South Sudan which is being officially opened," said the Ethiopian foreign minister, Tedros Adhanom, as the two sides met at a ceremony in the Ethiopian
    capital Addis Ababa.

    "South Sudan deserves peace and development not war. We appreciate the members of the two negotiating teams for the progress they have made today."

    Dina Mufti, an Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman, said full talks about a proposed ceasefire would begin at 1200 GMT on Sunday.

    "Both the government and opposition of South Sudan have committed to resolve their political differences through political dialogue," said Seyoum Mesfin, a former Ethiopian foreign minister and the special envoy for IGAD, the East African regional bloc of nations that is mediating the talks.

    Fierce fighting

    Since the conflict erupted on December 15, thousands of people are feared to have been killed in the fighting, pitting army units loyal to President Salva Kiir against a loose alliance of ethnic militia forces and mutinous army
    commanders nominally headed by his rival, former vice president Riek Machar.

    In South Sudan on Saturday the army battled to wrest back from rebels the strategic town of Bor, capital of Jonglei, one of the country's largest states.

    There were reports of intense battles involving tanks and artillery on the outskirts of Bor, which has already exchanged hands three times since fighting began almost three weeks ago.

    IGAD, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, whose members include the talks host Ethiopia as well as Kenya and Uganda - all strong backers of Kiir's government - played key roles in pushing forward the 2005 deal that ended Sudan's two-decade-long civil war.

    Uganda has deployed troops inside South Sudan to evacuate its citizens and bolster support for Kiir.

    SOURCE: AFP


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    Why America's Russia hysteria is dangerous

    Why America's Russia hysteria is dangerous

    The US exaggerating and obsessing about foreign threats seems quite similar to what is happening in Russia.

    Heron Gate mass eviction: 'We never expected this in Canada'

    Hundreds face mass eviction in Canada's capital

    About 150 homes in one of Ottawa's most diverse and affordable communities are expected to be torn down in coming months