ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA—Rebels in South Sudan are forcibly recruiting civilians to march on the capital, the military said, even as representatives of the warring factions gathered in neighbouring Ethiopia on Thursday for the start of peace talks. The fighting underscored the challenge facing African mediators as they try to nudge two rivals, President Salva Kiir and ousted Vice-President Riek Machar, toward the negotiating table after more than two weeks of bloody violence in the world’s newest country. South Sudan has been plagued by ethnic tension and a power struggle within the ruling party that escalated after Kiir dismissed Machar as his vice-president in July, with the violence boiling over in mid-December. The rebels back Machar, who is now a fugitive sought by the military. Rebels currently hold Bor, the capital of the key oil-producing state of Jonglei that is seeing some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict. Military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said the central government had sent in reinforcements from Juba, the capital. He said rebels were arming reluctant civilians as they focus on their next target: Juba.
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