JUBA, South Sudan – United States is set to evacuate its embassy in South Sudan following the recent surge in violent clashes in the region.
The State Department spoke of the “sudden and serious deterioration,” of the situation in the new country which had blown the rivalry between the President and Vice President into an everyday “general fighting.”
There were also reports of a U.S. embassy vehicle being attacked in clashes on July 7.
The rival factions pledging loyalties to President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar engaged in a violent fight on Sunday, involving gunfire outside a UN building. Allegations that Machar’s residence in Juba was attacked by Kiir’s men had triggered the fight.
Local reports claimed that five SPLA soldiers were killed and at least two SPLM-IO troops were injured, besides a few civilian casualties.
Clashes occurred on the fifth anniversary of the country’s independence. UNMISS, the UN mission in South Sudan, said that the violence occured so close that it drove away 1,000 internally displaced people under its protection. It said, “Both UNMISS compounds in Juba have sustained impacts from small arms and heavy weapons fire.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the incident as “senseless violence” and reports stated that he plans to hold an emergency session to discuss the situation in South Sudan.
While Chinese and Rwandan peacekeepers sustained injuries, Japan’s ambassador to the UN Koro Bessho confirmed the death of a Chinese soldier.
On July 7, a shootout between the bodyguards of both the leaders led to a full blown fight in Juba that killed at least 150 people.
Kiir and Machar met at the Presidential Palace the next day to issue a call for calm, following the severe damage and loss of lives.
By July 10, local radio station Radio Tamazuj reported that the death toll from those clashes may be as high as 271.
Kenya Airways informed the suspension of all flights to the city because of an “uncertain security situation.”
Meanwhile, Britain’s Foreign Office also advised against all travel to South Sudan, saying “the security situation in Juba has deteriorated” since Friday.
In July 2011, South Sudan declared itself as an independent country following more than 20 years of guerrilla warfare. The states of war had claimed the lives of at least 1.5 million people and displaced more than four million and the declaration of independence raised hopes for stable conditions.
However, after President Salva Kiir sacked the cabinet and accused Vice-President Riek Machar of planning a coup, civil war broke out between both camps in December 2013 which involved ethnic groups – the Dinka, led by Kiir, and the Nuer, under Machar, turning the clashes more violent.
A peace agreement was signed in South Sudan in August 2015, but many issues remain unresolved.