South Sudan President Salva Kiir says his government is in control of the capital Juba after hours of fighting in what he described as an attempted coup.
Heavy fighting broke out in Juba at 10pm on Sunday and went on till about 10am. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNAMISS) says at least six people including four children were injured in the fighting. UNAMISS says more than 400 people are camped at its compound in the capital.
Addressing the media shortly after midday on Monday, President Kiir described the fighting as an attempt to overthrow his government, but noted that the army is in control and that the attackers are being pursued. Dressed in full military uniform, Kiir also declared a 24-hour curfew in Juba.
The main borders and the airport remain closed as the situation remains tense. There are unconfirmed reports of renewed fighting at two different places in the capital of the nation that got independence from Sudan only two years ago.
At least 12 buses from Kampala are stuck at Nimule border town following hours of heavy fighting in the South Sudan capital, Juba.
Willy Katende, spokesperson of the bus drivers association, who is now at Nimule, says the buses arrived at Nimule between 4am and 7:30am on Monday, but were not allowed to cross the border into South Sudan. Katende says there is no vehicle going in or out of South Sudan at the moment. He says the buses that should have left Juba are still stuck in the Capital where fighting is still ongoing.
Air Uganda and Kenya Airways have cancelled their scheduled flights to Juba amid reports that the Juba Airport has been closed. The two airline companies confirmed on Twitter that they had called off their flights till further notice. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that Rumbek Airport in Lake State has been closed.
Wilson Dragundu, a business man in Juba town says residents have remained inside their houses as the town is barricaded by the soldiers loyal to President Salver Kiir. The official South Sudan Radio earlier today made an announcement that all residents of the city should remain calm.
Pamela Ankunda, Uganda’s Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesperson, says people should stay away from the border and seek advice from the immigration officials before they travel.
The fighting broke out on Sunday night in what appears to be a widening split between President Salva Kiir and sacked vice president Riek Machar. According Sudan Tribune, the clashes were started by the Presidential Guard forces, the ‘Tiger Special Force’ in the Old Military Barracks which is in the city centre. Reports show that a faction of soldiers largely from the Nuer tribe grew suspicious of military deployments around them of a faction that is largely Dinka. The fighting started at 10pm on Sunday. President Kiir is a Dinka by tribe while Dr Machar hails from the Nuer.
The violence is said to have been sparked off by infighting between forces loyal to Machar, who is the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Vice Chairman and those loyal to President Salva Kiir in the Old Military barracks in Juba.
The two have been in a delicate alliance for two years since the country gained independence in July 2011. In July this year, Kiir dismissed Machar from office and replaced him with James Wani Igga after the two disagreed on the style of leadership.
Two days ago, senior leaders of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) announced that they were pulled out from the meeting of the National Liberation Council (NLC), accusing party chairman, President Kiir, of deviating from the spirit of dialogue.
The Sudan Tribune reports that senior members of the SPLM highest executive organ, the Political Bureau (PB), including deputy chairman Riek Machar, as well as members of the NLC announced that Kiir has not replicated their “good gesture for dialogue” on democracy in the party.
Earlier on Friday, the group announced the postponement of a public rally that had been due to take place on Saturday in order to inform the wider public about the party’s current affairs. Machar said the decision came following calls from SPLM supporters to postpone both the rally and NLC meeting in order to allow more time for internal political dialogue on contentious issues affecting the party.