African leaders met Thursday in South Sudan for closed-door talks [BBC report] about ending the fighting that began in the country earlier this month. Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta [official website] and Ethiopia Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met with South Sudan President Salva Kiir [BBC profile] in the capital city of Juba with a focus on ending the armed conflict that has now spread to half the country. The violence began after ethnic Dinka, loyal to President Kiir, and Nuer soldiers, following former vice president Riek Machar, clashed on December 15. UN officials stated on Tuesday that they have found three mass grave sites [UK Guardian report] and believe that the death toll of the conflict may already be in the thousands.
The US government deployed 150 military personnel [JURIST report] on Monday in preparation of possible evacuation of US citizens from South Sudan. Over 300 US citizens had already been evacuated as of the deployment. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) [official website] began evacuating [JURIST report] all non-critical staff from Juba earlier this month after a UNMISS base was assaulted, killing 20 ethnic Dinka civilians and two UN peacekeepers. In April, prior to the current conflict, UNMISS issued a report [JURIST report] urging the South Sudan government to do more to protect civilians from violence. South Sudan is the world's youngest sovereign nation, having just celebrated the first anniversary of its independence [JURIST report] last July.