South Sudan Refugees Swell As Americans Are Evacuated

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Country the U.S. Helped Create Might Be Spiraling Toward Civil War.

The U.S. military on Sunday rushed to evacuate American citizens from a rebel-held town in South Sudan, the latest sign that a country the U.S. helped create might be spiraling toward civil war.

About 15 Americans were evacuated on Sunday from the town of Bor in helicopters, according to a State Department spokeswoman. The flights were part of a broader exodus of international workers and South Sudanese from fighting between factions of South Sudan’s army. The U.S. has evacuated about 380 U.S. officials and private citizens, said the spokeswoman, Jen Psaki.

A political power struggle between former South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir ahead of 2015 elections appears to have set off the violence. It quickly descended into ethnic clashes that risk splitting the country of 10 million.

By Sunday, rebel factions allied with Mr. Machar, a member of the Nuer ethnic group, had solidified control of territory they seized in a week of gunbattles with government forces that have left 500 dead, according to figures provided by South Sudan’s military, other officials and the U.N.

The violence offered a cautionary lesson for foreign powers that attempted to forge a new African nation in a fractured region where alliances often are short-lived and ethnic divisions run deep.

The U.S. lobbied hard for the creation of South Sudan as part of a drive to help rebel groups get out from under the thumb of the government of Sudan, their erstwhile civil-war foe.

The U.S. has pumped about $300 million a year into South Sudan since its independence in 2011. China and India have invested heavily in its oil fields,

Until a week ago, the resulting republic was relatively peaceful, if economically stagnant. But then clashes between units of the presidential guard in the capital escalated into fighting throughout Juba, the capital, much of it ethnic groups targeting each other.

On Sunday, droves of refugees were on the move, seeking the relative safety of U.N. camps inside South Sudan or crossing borders into Kenya and Uganda.

About 42,000 people have taken shelter in the U.N. camps, the organization said, the bulk of about 60,000 displaced by the surge of violence.

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