The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has temporarily closed two offices in South Sudan and evacuated staff from the country following recent violence.
Two Swiss workers had already left the SDC’s cooperation office in the capital Juba, and the three staff in the project office in Aweil in the north of the country would leave South Sudan as soon as possible, the Swiss foreign ministry said on Wednesday. It added that they would return as soon as the security situation permitted it. Until then, the programme would be run from abroad.
South Sudan has been a priority country for Swiss Humanitarian Aid since the country’s creation in July 2011.
Currently some 30 Swiss citizens are in South Sudan, most working for international organisations and charities. The Swiss foreign ministry has repeatedly urged Swiss nationals to leave the country and has discouraged trips there since 2013.
‘Tip of the iceberg’
In five days of fighting in Juba, President Salva Kiir’s forces ousted those loyal to First Vice President Riek Machar, the former rebel leader in the country’s recent civil war, from one of their bases.
The fighting left hundreds dead in the capital, and aid workers said bodies remained in the streets.
An initial South Sudanese government death toll of 272 people, including 33 civilians, is likely to be much higher, United Nations peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous told the UN Security Council on Wednesday.
“I would believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg, given alarming reports over the last few days indicating many civilians were barred from reaching safer ground,” Ladsous said.
swissinfo.ch and agencies