Kiir Releases Machar Allies

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks during a press conference with the seven detainees released to his custody by the South Sudanese president at State House in Nairobi on January 29, 2014.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks during a press conference with the seven detainees released to his custody by the South Sudanese president at State House in Nairobi on January 29, 2014.

South Sudan has released seven of the 11 men it detained last December in connection with an alleged coup, but it pledged to put on trial key leaders accused of launching weeks of fighting.

The men went to Nairobi on Wednesday after they were granted political asylum by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The South Sudanese government, however, says they will remain behind bars in Kenya and will be returned to Juba to face trial for treason.

The other four will remain in jail in South Sudan to face trial for attempting to topple President Salva Kiir during December 15 clashes in the capital, Juba.

The release of all the prisoners has been a key demand of the rebel leader Riek Machar, whose troops battled forces loyal to President Kiir for several weeks.

The violence broke out in the capital Juba in mid-December last year, when President Kiir accused his sacked deputy, Machar, of attempting to stage a coup.

The conflict soon turned into an all-out war between the army and defectors, with the violence taking on an ethnic dimension that pitted the president’s Dinka tribe against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.

Aid groups say up to 10,000 people have lost their lives in the fighting and more than 700,000 people have been displaced due to the violence. Some 124,000 people have also fled to neighboring countries.

On January 23, the warring sides implemented a ceasefire to end weeks of heavy fighting in the country.

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