La capitale del Sudan del Sud, Juba, il 17 dicembre si é trasformata in un campo di battaglia a seguito di nuovi scontri tra le truppe fedeli al presidente Salva Kiir Mayardit e quelle del suo rivale Riek Machar. Gli scontri si sono verificati un giorno dopo l’annuncio di un tentativo di colpo di stato fallito svolto da quest’ultimo. Le sparatorie, proseguite per tre giorni, hanno spinto quasi 13.000 cittadini a cercare rifugio in due basi delle Nazioni Unite, mentre decine di persone sono state uccise e centinaia ferite.
Witnesses said that the city of Juba looks like large military barracks now that the airport has closed, restrictions have been imposed on phone calls and troops have been deployed in the streets and at established checkpoints. According to reports, civilians have been provoked, as raids are being carried out on houses suspected by the authorities of harboring individuals involved in the coup attempt.
In a phone call with Al-Hayat, a prominent oppositionist in Juba said the tension in the capital has moved to other states, including those plagued by insurgency and others that are relatively calm. The same source did not rule out the possibility that clashes could escalate as a result of the tribal polarization within the army between members loyal to Salva Kiir and supporters of former Vice President Machar.
Makor Koriyoun, South Sudanese minister of state for health affairs, said at least 26 people have died and 140 have been hospitalized in the Juba clashes since Sunday. Medical sources in Juba’s main hospital, however, said 66 soldiers had been killed.
An official from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) told Al-Hayat that the death toll has exceeded a hundred soldiers and civilians, with 300 people injured.
Hilde Johnson, the UN’s special representative for South Sudan, urged the fighting parties to avoid ethnic and tribal violence, reiterating the necessity of “security forces exercising restraint.”
In a statement, Johnson noted that around 10,000 civilians had taken refuge in UN compounds in Juba, while Toby Lanzer, the UN deputy special representative of the secretary-general in South Sudan, said that 13,000 people have sought shelter in UN centers.
South Sudan authorities carried out broad arrests, which included prominent politicians and military figures: Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Secretary General Pagan Amum; Unity State Governor Taban Deng Gai; former ambassador Ezekiel Lul; former Environment Minister Alfred Lado; former Lakes State Governor Chol Tong Mayay; former Deputy Defense Minister Majak Agot; former Security Minister Oyay Deng Ajak; former Interior Minister Gier Chuang and former Youth Minister Cirino Hiteng Ofuho were arrested.
South Sudan’s Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said that security forces were currently working to get rid of the remnants of the supporters of former Vice President Machar.
Rebecca Garang, widow of the late People’s Liberation Army leader John Garang, said that what happened “was nothing more than a split within the army.” She accused Salva Kiir of “driving the south toward a new dictatorship.” In a statement given from her residence in Juba, she said that Machar was “a democratic man who could never think of a coup.”
The conflict called to mind the split within the People’s Liberation Army in the 1990s, when Machar led a dissident group that fought battles against supporters of Garang. Machar hails from the Nuer tribe, which is a rival of Salva Kiir’s Dinka tribe, which is in control of South Sudan.