Aug 15, 9:12 AM EDT

New fighting hits South Sudan; rebel leader blames gov't for buying arms from China


AP Photo
AP Photo/p.holm
World Video

Multimedia
Investigators Probe Sudan Jet Fire
Former 'Lost Boy' Brings Water to Sudan
Refugees Find Hope, Sadness on Barge Ride Home
Elephants Return to Southern Sudan
Carter in Darfur
Crisis Worsens Environment in Darfur
In Remote Region of Darfur, Brutal Past Won't Stay Buried
Latest News from Sudan
Children, armed and in uniform, used as child soldiers in South Sudan, UN leader, group say

South Sudan authorities shut down popular radio station in capital, says watchdog group

New fighting hits South Sudan; rebel leader blames gov't for buying arms from China

UN Security Council, in South Sudan, threatens sanctions as peace deal remains elusive

US to provide South Sudan with $180 million in emergency food aid

PHOTO GALLERY
AP Photo

Photos from Sudan

Buy AP Photo Reprints
Multimedia
Hunger in Sudan

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- After a lull of several weeks, fighting broke out in South Sudan on Friday, forcing aid workers to take cover in a city where more than 40,000 civilians are huddled in a U.N. base. The country's rebel leader blamed the government for spending oil money on new weapons amid mass hunger in the country.

Riek Machar, the country's former vice president and current rebel leader, told The Associated Press that China should stop sending weapons to South Sudan's government. He said government funds, which come from oil revenue, should be spent on citizens who face severe hunger.

Aid leaders fear that South Sudan could be facing a famine. Since December, more than 1 million people have fled their homes, meaning crops were not planted before seasonal rains began. The violence often pits one ethnic group against another in the world's newest country. South Sudan broke off from larger Sudan in 2011.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said during a Security Council trip to South Sudan this week that U.N. officials have "very worrying reports" of arms being brought into the country to set the stage for more fighting when the rains end.

Despite the signing of two peace deals this year, and despite the fact the rainy season continues, fighting broke out in the city of Bentiu, where a U.N. base is packed with people seeking safety from attacks. Bentiu has traded hands multiple times since violence spread across South Sudan last December. Government troops have been in control of it in recent weeks.

"We heard the sound of fighting and took cover in the bunkers as it started to get closer," said Timothy Ngyuai, CARE's project manager in Bentiu. "We're back at work now, providing life-saving assistance to those who have fled the violence and have chartered a flight for tomorrow morning to bring medicine to help treat the sick and wounded."

The U.N. Security Council met with President Salva Kiir and spoke with Machar via video conference this week. Power said the two leaders should set aside their differences and urgently resolve the political crisis.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during this month's U.S.-Africa summit in Washington, accused Machar's side of breaking the peace deals that have been brokered. Kerry added: "Deadlines keep passing and innocent people keep dying. The log-rolling and delay has to end."

Machar denied that his side is responsible for violence and instead blamed Kiir.

Machar noted that he has been in Ethiopia - the site of peace talks - since May. The former vice president said he wants direct negotiations with Kiir's government instead of a suggested structure that civil society and religious leaders also take part.

"It will not bring a speedy a process. We want a speedy process so we can conclude the talks and end the war," Machar said.

Machar said any peace deal leading to a national unity transitional government will need to lay out government reforms, including changes to the army and security services, and a restructuring of public services and the judiciary.

South Sudan's Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said in a recent statement that it is the rebel negotiators who are slowing down talks.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.