Violent clashes rock South Sudan’s capital
South Sudan | The renewed fighting could lead to another civil war
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 7/11/16, 11:11 am
Renewed fighting between South Sudanese troops loyal to the president and those pledging allegiance to the vice president has left more than 300 dead in Juba, the country’s capital, raising concerns about the emergence of another civil war.
Witnesses reported sounds of more blasts and gunfire in the capital this morning. Explosions targeted the Tomping area of Juba, which houses several embassies, the airport, and a UN base.
The fighting began on Friday outside the presidential compound where President Salva Kiir was meeting with vice president and former rebel leader Riek Machar. The clashes quickly spread throughout the city. The attacks ceased on Saturday as the country marked its fifth year of independence but resumed early Sunday morning. Government forces attacked rebel bases in Juba’s Jebel and Gudele neighborhoods. The fighting struck a UN camp housing many people displaced by the violence. An internal situation report revealed the attack killed eight people, including two Chinese peacekeepers, and left 67 people injured.
“The condition is really very bad,” said Budbud Chol, who oversees security at a clinic on the UN base. “We have rocket-propelled grenades that have landed in the camp, which have wounded eight people.”
Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang confirmed the fighting but said it’s still unclear how it started. The clashes left many searching for shelter. About 10,000 Juba residents fled neighborhoods where clashes continued, said Jeremiah Young, a policy adviser for World Vision in South Sudan.
“We have seen quite a few individuals packing up and leaving, trying to find shelter, what look like a lot of civilians taking off down the street, carrying their suitcases, their children,” Young said.
Similar clashes in December 2013 between factions loyal to Kiir and Machar triggered a two-year civil war that killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 2 million. The rival parties signed a peace deal in August, but have failed to fully implement it.
The UN Security Council condemned this weekend’s fighting and called on Kiir and Machar to genuinely commit themselves to the peace agreement after an emergency meeting on Sunday. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon previously called on the leaders to order their forces to withdraw.
“This senseless violence is unacceptable and has the potential of reversing the progress made so far in the peace process,” Ban said in a statement.
As the crisis shows signs of escalating, the U.S. State Department ordered the evacuation of all non-essential personnel form Juba on Sunday. The Canadian embassy has closed entirely, and the International Monetary Fund has relocated its staff and their families temporarily to Nairobi, Kenya, said Philippe Egoume Bossogo, head of the IMF office in South Sudan.
The rising tension between the warring factions must be settled immediately to avoid another civil war, said Eric Reeves, a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Center for Health and Human Rights.
“As great as the present catastrophe in South Sudan is, it has the potential to become much, much worse,” Reeves said. “The international community must urgently reinforce and reconfigure the UN Mission in South Sudan to function as a civilian protection force, including protection of all humanitarian workers.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.