STORY: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday (December 17) opposing factions in South Sudan must prevent tensions from escalating, and that political differences must be resolved. He was speaking during a visit to Tacloban, a typhoon-hit city in central Philippines.
The United Nations received reports from local sources in South Sudan on Tuesday (December 16) that between 400 and 500 people had been killed and up to 800 wounded in the latest violence, and the government said it had arrested 10 politicians in connection with a "foiled coup".
Kerry called for a peaceful resolution of political disputes.
"I saw it first hand how devoted, dedicated the people of South Sudan were and are, and how they have endured many years of conflict and sacrificed far too much for their country to now go backwards and descend back into violence.
Political differences need to be resolved by peaceful and democratic means and those have been hard fought for. The government should respect the rule of law and the people of South Sudan should be able to realise their full potential in peace," Kerry told reporters.
The Juba government said it had arrested 10 major political figures and was looking for its former vice president, accusing him of leading a failed coup in the oil-producing country's capital, where gunfire rang out for a second day.
The prominence of the detainees' names underscores the extent of the rift in Africa's newest state, less than two and half years after it seceded from Sudan.
The United States urged its citizens to leave the country immediately, and said it was suspending normal operations at its embassy.
"The safety and the security of our diplomats is paramount and we are taking steps at this time in order to guarantee that security," Kerry said.
South Sudan is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Africa despite its oil reserves, and it is plagued by ethnic fighting.