Rebels sieze oil wells in South Sudan

Kenya and Ethiopia's leaders met with South Sudan's president in a bid to avert a civil war.

Kenya and Ethiopia's leaders met with South Sudan's president in a bid to avert a civil war. Picture: AFP.

JUBA - Rebels in South Sudan have seized some oil wells and captured half of the capital of the main oil-producing region, the government and army said as African leaders held talks to avert civil war.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met South Sudan's President Salva Kiir in the capital Juba in an attempt to end nearly two weeks of fighting in the world's newest state.

"South Sudan is a young nation that should be spared unnecessary distractions in its development agenda. Take wisdom and stop the loss of innocent lives," Kenyatta said.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom called the talks "very constructive and very candid". It was not clear whether the delegation also met the rebel leader, former vice president Riek Machar, who was sacked by Kiir in July.

Violence erupted in Juba on 15 December and quickly spread, dividing the landlocked country of 10.8 million along ethnic lines between the Nuer - Machar's people - and the Dinka, to whom Kiir belongs. The head of the United Nations (UN) mission in Sudan said well over 1,000 people had been killed.

Rebels and government troops clashed in Malakal, capital of the major oil-producing state, Upper Nile, for the third day in a row, army spokesperson Philip Aguer said.

"They control half of the town and government troops control the other half. They will be defeated soon," Aguer said by telephone. No comment was available from the rebel side.

Petroleum Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau said the rebels had captured oil wells in Unity state, where production was shut down earlier this week due to fighting.


At the same time, the leaders of East African countries are to meet in Kenya to discuss growing violence in South Sudan.

The summit follows Thursday's meeting South Sudan's President Salva Kiir had with his counterparts from Kenya and Ethiopia.

More than 50,000 people have fled into UN compounds in South Sudan seeking refuge.

Leaders of the eight-nation East African regional bloc known as Igad will meet in Nairobi.