Amos set for talks in South Sudan

New York - United Nations aid chief Valerie Amos arrived in war-torn South Sudan on Monday as warnings mounted of a growing humanitarian crisis, with rebels and government accusing each other of breaking a ceasefire aimed at ending the conflict.

Amos, who arrived in Juba at the start of a three-day visit, is due to meet with government officials and aid workers in a bid to boost relief to the troubled young nation, where thousands have been killed and over 700 000 people have fled their homes in over six weeks of violence.

SPLA soldiers drive to the frontline at Mathiang from their military base in Bor, South Sudan. Picture: George Philipas. Credit: Reuters

The fighting has seen waves of brutal revenge attacks, as fighters and ethnic militia use the violence to loot and settle old scores, with the United Nations and rights workers reporting that horrific atrocities have been committed by both sides.

Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, will also stress the “importance of ensuring the protection of civilians, and of aid workers”, a statement added.

Both sides say the other is breaking a ceasefire which began on Friday evening, insisting they are committed and that they have opened fire only in self-defence.

Army spokesman Philip Aguer accused the rebels on Monday of “multiple violations” of the ceasefire.

“There were large scale attacks on our positions on Sunday,” Aguer told AFP, reporting fighting in the northern oil-producing state of Upper Nile, as well as in the troubled eastern state of Jonglei.

“They killed four soldiers in Mathiang in Jonglei, but because they were attacking our defensive positions, we repulsed them and killed around 120 of their forces,” Aguer added. It was not possible to verify the claim independently.

However, Aguer dismissed shooting in Juba late on Sunday as “the work of drunken and indisciplined soldiers, who were only firing into the air and not at people”.

At least 30 children died in a measles outbreak in a crowded camp of over 10 000 people squeezed into the UN peacekeeping base in the devastated town of Bor - which swapped hands four times in the fighting - the UN children's agency (Unicef) has said.