Juba, July 10: Just before fifth anniversary of Independence of South Sudan, massive violence took place on Friday which left around 150 soldiers and civilians dead. According to sources, heavy gunfire broke out Friday between soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and those supporting Vice President Riek Machar, the fighting had happened near the presidential compound, known as the State House, and in army barracks. The fighting quickly spread from the presidential compound across Juba.
"We heard heavy artillery fire at the U.N. (base), and that continued for about an hour or so and then stopped. It was coming form the outer perimeters of the compound," said Shantal Persaud, acting spokeswoman for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. Helicopter gunships were seen in the sky, and tanks rumbled through the streets. Under the peace deal, both government and opposition troops were stationed in Juba, a plan which many criticized because it put both forces in close proximity. On Friday night, it was unclear if either Machar or Kiir were in full control of their forces.
After their meeting was cut short, Kiir and Machar held a joint news conference."What is happening outside is something we cannot explain to you," Kiir said."This incident will be controlled and measures will be taken so that peace is restored," Machar said.
After this incident, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon said on Friday, “he was deeply alarmed by fighting in South Sudan's capital Juba between rival troops, describing the violence threatening a fragile peace process as a "new betrayal" of the country's people”. Ban urged Kiir and Machar to put an immediate end to the fighting, discipline the military leaders responsible for the violence and finally work together to implement the peace deal.
"(The fighting) represents a new betrayal of the people of South Sudan, who have suffered from unfathomable atrocities since December 2013," the Secretary-General said in a statement. "I am also gravely concerned by the resurgence of violence in Wau and Bentiu, which could lead to a dramatic deterioration of the security situation across the country," Ban said.
On Saturday, the fifth Independence Day was completely silent because Juba was shut down as it was militarily occupied, which is exactly the opposite of what is supposed to happen here under a peace accord in August. South Sudan was founded with optimistic celebrations in the capital on July 9, 2011, after it gained independence from Sudan in a referendum that passed with close to 100 percent of the vote. Civil war broke out when soldiers from Kiir's Dinka ethnic group disarmed and targeted troops of Machar's Nuer ethnic group. Machar and commanders loyal to him fled to the countryside, and tens of thousands of people died in the conflict that followed. Many civilians also starved.