The US government on Monday deployed 150 US military personnel to a base in Djibouti in preparation for a possible evacuation of US citizens in response to escalating violence and political discord within South Sudan. The deployment follows [Reuters report] a failed evacuation attempt in which four US soldiers were wounded by gunfire. Over 300 US officials and citizens have been evacuated. The conflict is the newest wave of violence to sweep the nation and has been described as the beginnings of a civil war. Much of the violence has been perpetrated along ethnic rather than political lines. Members of the ethnic groups Nuer and Dinka have both been accused of atrocities and massacres committed against the other. The opposition group led by the country's former vice-president is Nuer, and the leading political party is largely Dinka. The ruling party has denied that many of the massacres have taken place. The official death count given by the government is placed [Guardian report] at approximately 500, but this number has reportedly been dismissed by experts who estimate the true figure to be much higher.
Violence in the region has been steadily escalating in recent days. On Sunday the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) [official website] announced [JURIST report] that it would be evacuating all non-essential personnel from the nation's capital. UNMISS indicated they would step up their military presence in the area after an attack on a UNMISS base during which 20 civilians and two UN peacekeepers were killed. In April UNMISS reported [JURIST report] a great need for the South Sudanese government to step up its efforts to protect its civilians from outbreaks of violence. Since its independence in 2011 South Sudan has faced [JURIST report] constant problems with internal violence and international attention relating to alleged human rights abuses.