U.N. refugee agency alarmed by S. Sudan crisis

Jan. 8, 2014 at 10:24 AM
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KAMPALA, Uganda, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- South Sudanese civilians are fleeing the violence by crossing the border to neighboring Uganda at a rate of 2,500 people per day, the U.N. refugee agency said.

Conflict erupted in South Sudan in December after President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar of launching a coup. Sidelined when Kiir reshuffled his Cabinet last summer, Machar denies allegations he's trying to overthrow the government.

Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, said the conflict is creating a regional refugee crisis.

"The fighting that erupted in South Sudan in mid-December between government troops and opposition forces has forced more than 23,500 people to seek shelter in neighboring Uganda," she said in a statement Tuesday. "They are now crossing at a rate of up to 2,500 people a day."

Fleming said the crisis in South Sudan was straining the capacity of U.N. agencies tasked with providing protection for an estimated 230,000 internal refugees

"We are greatly worried about any effects of the fighting on the refugees and on our ability to serve them," she said. "We remind all parties to the conflict that refugee camps must remain civilian in character."

Both warring factions agreed to sit down at the negotiating table in neighboring Ethiopia in an effort to find a peaceful resolution to the situation.

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