Canada suspends diplomatic operations in South Sudan

Displaced families are seen camped inside Pomping UN base near Juba international airport December...

Displaced families are seen camped inside Pomping UN base near Juba international airport December 24, 2013. REUTERS/James Akena

Jessica Hume, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 2:11 PM ET

OTTAWA — Canada’s diplomatic operations in South Sudan have been temporarily suspended and Canadians are urged to leave as tensions and violence in the world’s newest country continue to escalate. Fighting broke out Dec. 15 when President Salva Kiir accused former vice-president Riek Machar of attempting to overthrow him in a coup. Machar has denied the accusations and claims Kiir wants to quash all political opponents. After the leaders of neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia traveled to Juba to assist in brokering a political solution, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) released a statement Friday saying Kiir had agreed “in principle” to a ceasefire. Machar did not immediately react. “[IGAD] welcomes the commitment by the government of the Republic of South Sudan to an immediate cessation of hostilities and calls upon Dr. Riek Machar and other parties to make similar commitments.” Kenya’s President Kenyatta Uhuru said in a statement: “Let it be known that we in IGAD will not accept the unconstitutional overthrow of a duly and democratically elected government is South Sudan. “Violence has never provided optimum solutions,” he said. Fighting escalated shortly after Dec. 15 as tensions metastasized along ethnic lines, with the majority Dinka community fighting against the smaller Nuer group. Kiir is a Dinka and Machar is a Nuer. The United Nations has promised more peacekeepers and soldiers as the number of displaced civilians reaches more than 120,000, with many seeking refuge in UN camps around the country, according to media reports.