23 Dec 2013

Britons evacuated from ‘dangerous’ South Sudan

A plane carrying British nationals leaves South Sudan after the Foreign Office warns people to leave the country as violence spreads.

SPLA soldiers stand in a vehicle in Juba, South Sudan (R)

A plane was sent to the capital city of Juba to evacuate Britons, with officials warning that the government would struggle to help anyone who chose to stay behind.

Before it departed, a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “Due to the continued violence in South Sudan, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is planning to send a third and final plane to assist any remaining British nationals to leave.

“The FCO is planning to provide a charter flight to depart from Juba to Dubai during the afternoon of Monday 23 December. Following the assisted departure of British nationals earlier this week on military flights, this will be the final flight provided by the FCO for British nationals to leave South Sudan.

“If you would like to be on the flight on 23 December, you will need to be at Juba Airport by 1200 hours. It may not be possible to carry baggage. If you bring baggage to the airport, you may have to leave it there.

“We strongly advise all British nationals in South Sudan to leave the country if they can do so safely. You may have difficulty leaving in the event of a further deterioration in security.”

British nationals choosing to remain in South Sudan should remain alert to the local security situation, monitor the media, and stay in a safe location,the Foreign Office said. A curfew is in place in Juba and some other towns between 6pm and 6am.

‘A dangerous situation’

Fighting has spread through the newly-formed east African state, which gained its independence in 2011, following a reported coup attempt in the capital last weekend.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon is expected to ask the Security Council for about 5,000 more troops for the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.

The UN has estimated that up to 500 people have been killed in fighting between rival factions following a coup attempt against the president by soldiers loyal to his former deputy.

Read more: on the verge of civil war: hundreds 'killed in South Sudan'

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “I remain very concerned at the situation in South Sudan.

“Increased political polarisation and inter-communal tensions are fuelling a dangerous situation.

“It is vital that all leaders urge restraint on their supporters and commit to a political resolution of their differences.

“South Sudan has a legitimate, democratically elected government.

“Resorting to military means to further political rivalries is a betrayal of the hopes on which the new state of South Sudan was founded.”

Mr Hague has also called on the South Sudanese government to work for peace as he warned Britons to African state.

He said: “I have underlined my concerns with the South Sudanese foreign minister today and urged his government to work for political reconciliation on the basis of the proposals put forward by regional foreign ministers during their visit to Juba on 20-21 December.

“He has reassured me of the government’s openness to dialogue without preconditions.

“I thanked minister Marial Benjamin for the assistance that the South Sudanese authorities and he personally have given to ensure the smooth turn-around of our evacuation flights this week. I encourage any remaining British nationals to take advantage of the third flight that we are making available on 23 December.”

‘Trauma of conflict’

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and the Vatican called for the nation’s weak and poor to be “spared the trauma of conflict”.

In a joint statement they said: “On behalf of our churches we appeal to the leaders in South Sudan to lay down their weapons and co-operate in seeking peace through dialogue and negotiation.

“As we approach the celebration of the birth of our Saviour, the Prince of Peace, this is a time for the vulnerable, the weak and the poor to be spared the trauma of civil conflict.”

“We issue this appeal together, knowing that Christian leaders in South Sudan are working in unity and courage of faith for peace. “

Any Britons in South Sudan wanting to leave on the flight tomorrow should contact the FCO as soon as possible on +44 207 008 1500 or by email at crisis@fco.gsi.gov.uk.