External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reviews the ongoing unrest in South Sudan, where more than 300 Indians are struck in the ongoing clashes between two ethnic groups.
Swaraj held an emergency meeting in her office on Tuesday to chalk out strategy to evacuate stranded Indian nationals.
Soon after the meeting Swaraj spoke to media and said security of Indians is of paramount importance and it has formed a task force to take stock of situation in South Sudan.
“We have made all arrangements to evacuate Indians from South Sudan in case the situation deteriorates further. A special task force has been constituted to monitor the situation and provide assistance” said Swaraj
At least 300 Indians are stranded in violence hit South Sudan in the ongoing fight between two groups in country capital Juba. Among those stranded are over 30 officers from the Maharashtra police cadre posted in Sudan for UN peacekeeping mission.
South Sudan has been witnessing worst clashes between elected government and rebels for the past one week.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that Indian officials involved in evacuation operation are trapped in the country capital Juba.
India began its evacuation from South Sudan on Monday after violent clashes broke out between anti and pro government forces and has advised Indians not to travel to the war-torn country.
“South Sudan – I am aware of the developments in South Sudan. We are planning evacuation of Indian nationals. Please register yourself with Indian Embassy and do not panic. Indian nationals are advised not to travel to South Sudan.”
Trapped Indians are moving between the heavily armed rebels and forces and are struggling to take refuge in various locations, including at Indian Embassy.
Indian embassy in South Sudan asked stranded Indians to stay calm and assured them of safety saying that Embassy is exploring all possible options to provide relief.
“The Indian embassy is in regular touch with concerned authorities with concerned authorities in India and all options are being considered for providing relief to Indians stranded here in Juba,” said the Indian embassy in South Sudan’s statement.
In its latest advisory, MEA said Indian nationals desirous of departing for South Sudan may kindly register themselves at the email ID email@example.com.
“It is important to have exact number of Indian nationals seeking facility of evacuation to make arrangements. Please be brief,” the advisory on assistance for Indian nationals in South Sudan said.
“We are also in touch with other diplomatic missions and will coordinate on evacuation as the opportunity arises but as of now the airport is closed and roadblocks (controlled by rival factions) are hindering secure movement.” Shrikumar Menon, the Indian Ambassador in South Sudan told media.
India’s Embassy in South Sudan said that law and order is broken down in the capital and even the U.N. peacekeeping forces are unable to help as their bases have come under rebels attack. At least 2,500 Indian soldiers are participating in the U.N. peacekeeping forces mission and nearly 150 of them are stationed in Juba.
What is actually happening in South Sudan?
South Sudan is the youngest African country that gained independence in 2011 after 98% of the population voted to leave Sudan. Soon after it became independent, it fell into a situation of civil war and the two ethnic groups, Dinka and Nuer, have been exchanging gunfire every day.
In December 2013, soldiers from Kiir’s (Current President) Dinka ethnic group tried to disarm Nuer soldiers perceived to be loyal to Riek Machar (Current Vice President).
UN reports say that at least 50,000 have been killed in the South Sudan civil war and more than 2 million displaced. Another UN report says that nearly 5 million people are facing severe food shortages.
According to official data, there are a few hundred Indians in South Sudan. Some of them have set up businesses in the capital city Juba and others are working for various companies. The Indian Embassy in Juba is providing assistance to Indians residing in the capital and is working with External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi to send them back.