UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Thursday it will move non-critical staff out of South Sudan after an eruption of violence and has received reports accusing President Salva Kiir’s troops of targeting U.N. staff and foreign aid workers amid the fighting.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric described the reports as “highly disturbing” and called on South Sudanese authorities to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice. He said the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS, was also investigating the incidents, including its own response.
“The reports include allegations of the killing of at least one South Sudanese national working for an international NGO, as well as rapes, including of international NGO staff. U.N. staff members have also been assaulted,” Dujarric told reporters.
He said the allegations were made against South Sudanese army troops, who are loyal to Kiir.
The South Sudanese mission to the United Nations was not immediately available to comment on the accusations.
Fighting between rival troops began a week ago in the capital Juba, which has been calm since Monday evening when Kiir and Riek Machar - the former rebel leader and now vice president - ordered their respective forces to cease hostilities. But residents remain tense and many foreigners have been leaving.
“The U.N. mission, as well as other U.N. agencies, funds and programs are preparing for the temporary relocation of non-critical staff from Juba,” said Dujarric, adding that they would likely be moved to Nairobi, though he did not have any figures.
U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed in South Sudan since the country gained independence from Sudan in 2011. There are currently some 13,500 troops and police on the ground.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council on Monday to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, sanction leaders and commanders blocking a peace deal and fortify the peacekeeping mission.
Kiir and Machar have long been rivals in politics and on the battlefield. A civil war that began in December 2013 came a few months after Kiir dismissed Machar as his deputy. They signed a peace deal in August 2015, but implementation has been slow.
Uganda’s army began evacuating citizens from inside neighboring South Sudan, while the United States has deployed 47 troops to South Sudan to protect U.S. citizens and the embassy in Juba.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols