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'White Army,' teenagers who dust themselves with ash, stirring unrest in South Sudan

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In South Sudan, a "White Army," i.e. ethnic Nuer youths who dust their bodies with ash to add to their fearful appearance, have begun to advance on the town of Bor. It's just the latest in a sea of worries for the world's newest nation, who is trying to drum up a truce after two weeks on conflict that has left hundreds dead.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The youthful brigade is composed of 25,000 armed youths. They are advancing on the city which was recaptured by loyalist forces last week.

"We used gunships as they tried to advance towards Bor. They then dispersed and returned back," Philip Aguer, Sudan People's Liberation Army spokesman, said by phone from South Sudan's capital, Juba. Government troops had begun clashing with White Army rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar.

Scarcely two years old, fighting in South Sudan has left at least 1,000 dead and split the east African country. It has also raised fears of an all-out civil war between the main Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups which could destabilize the fragile region.

Rebels have seized Mayom, a strategic town some 55 miles from Unity state capital Bentiu, the main rebel stronghold. "You cannot capture Bentiu before seizing Mayom. Our troops will try to regain control," Aguer said.

The United Nations said the involvement of the White Army would "add a volatile and unpredictable ingredient into the precarious security situation" in the nation. The latest development has put unarmed civilians at risk for life and limb.

"South Sudan does not need another escalation of the crisis involving armed youth, pitching communities against communities. This can end in a vicious cycle of violence," U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary General Hilde Johnson said in a statement.

Machar made no immediate comment on the rebel force or on the government's offer of a ceasefire last week.

Civilians caught up in the panic have fled the city of Bor, fearing another round of bloodletting.

The city is no stranger to mass violence. In 1991, Bor was the scene of a massacre of Kiir's Dinka ethnic group in by Nuer fighters loyal to Machar. Bor was retaken by government troops after several days of heavy fighting.

Prepared from burnt cow dung, the ash used by the White Army is to ward off insects. They are armed with machetes, sticks and guns.



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