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South Sudan president sets to visit restive Yei: minister

UNMISS convoy arrives to Yei to assess the situation in the town following recent reports of conflict in the area on November 7, 2016 (UNMISS Photo).
January 7, 2017 (JUBA) - South Sudan President Salva Kiir is scheduled to visit the restive Yei town in February to consolidate peace and reconciliation, following report about attacks on local population by the government army and growing tensions on tribal lines.

Minister of Information and Government Spokeperson Michael Makuei Lueth said the visit comes in response to an invitation of the people of Yei and church leaders, who have asked him to visit them.

“The people of Yei and especially the churches had invited President Salva Kiir to visit them in February, and the President has accepted to visit Yei and attend the celebrations of the ECS church in Yei in a date to be determined in February,” said Lueth in a statement broadcast by the official South Sudan television after a regular cabinet meeting.

The minister said the cabinet had approved the visit.

Representatives of the government, opposition and civil society groups in Yei plan to meet with him during his first visit to the restive area since the resumption of the conflict in July 2016, when government forces and soldiers allied to his former First Vice President, Riek Machar, clashed at presidential palace.

His first deputy Taban Deng Gai was recently in the area with a number of key government ministers. Also, another delegation was in Yei last October.

UN officials and rights groups say civilians continue to flee the area massively, indicating that the government forces carry out indiscriminate attacks on civilians as result of the presence of local rebel fighters in the Central Equatoria area.

In a report released last November, HRW said unidentified attackers, in the government controlled areas entered a house and killed a mother and her 4-year-old daughter with machetes, then dumped their bodies in a river. "The 4-month-old baby was cut on the neck but survived," the group said.

The rights group further reported that the local SPLM-IO rebel fighters ambushed cars from the area and killed mostly Dinka, the same tribal group of President Salva Kiir.

(ST)