Fighting breaks out at Kiir palace with Machar inside

South Sudan's troubled President Salva Kiir Mayardit (C) directly addressing his Presidential Guard

South Sudan’s troubled President Salva Kiir Mayardit (C) directly addressing his Presidential Guard

Fighting has erupted inside J1, President Salva Kiir’s palace in the South Sudan capital, Juba.

Fighting broke out between presidential guards and those guarding the first vice president Riek Machar who had been attending a meeting at President Salva Kiir’s palace.

Machar’s spokesperson James Gatdet Dak says President Kiir and his commanders attempted to arrest the First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar Teny.

This came after the President called for a meeting of the Presidency in his office with Dr. Machar and Vice President, James Wani Igga.

“This turned out to be a setup to arrest and possibly harm Dr. Machar,” Dak said.

He added: “Fortunately, Dr. Machar’s bodyguards have managed to fight vigorously and rescued Dr. Machar. He is now safe!”

Meanwhile, fighting has continued and intensified in the capital.

South Sudan at war?

The gunfire currently rocking the capital came a day after clashes Thursday military clash between 10 soldiers (SPLA-IO) and forces of the SPLA.

SPLA forces reportedly attacked SPLA-IO soldiers from the protection unit who were traveling in a vehicle on Gudele road in the town.

SPLA spokesperson Brig Gen Lul Ruai Koang said the soldiers who attacked Machar guards were carrying out a routine search on vehicles pass through Luo-Clinic checkpoint.

He said the hostile fire resulted in the deaths of 5 SPLA soldiers and wounding of 2 others.

Earlier, a military vehicle carrying two security officers of the opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA-IO) under the command of Machar, was stopped on the road on Wednesday and taken away by force by soldiers belonging to the SPLA loyal to President Salva Kiir.

In retaliation, the SPLA-IO soldiers stopped a military pickup truck carrying soldiers of the SPLA, surrounded it and told the soldiers to get out of the vehicle by force.

The soldiers complied and their vehicle was taken to the SPLA-IO base at Jebel Kujur as compensation.

Opposition says two of their officers were also killed by the SPLA military intelligence and national security personnel days ago.

Memories of civil war

Only this week, a military official said six heavy-loaded military tanks were deployed to surround the residence of Machar.

During the same operations, an SPLA-IO’s officer, Lt. Col. Gorge Gismalla Alexander was shot dead by alleged SPLA’s military intelligence allied to President Salva Kiir.

On the same day, Juba witnessed widespread military armament among government soldiers.

Most activity was in Luri, a private military camp of president Kiir in the west of capital Juba, where hundreds of militias have been trained or are undergoing military training.

SPLM-IO in South Sudan’s Unity state on Monday accused government forces of preparing to attack their positions in the state.

SPLM-IO Spokesperson in Unity state James Yuaj warned of new attacks in the state following government military build-up in Koch, Rubkuai, Leer and Tharjath areas.

In December 2013, Kiir accused soldiers loyal to Machar of trying to overthrow the government.

The coup, which Machar denied, led to a civil war that lasted until 2015 when a peace agreement was signed at Addis Ababa peace talks in Ethiopia.

Back to 2013?

On the evening of Sunday, 15 December 2013, at the meeting of the National Liberation Council at Nyakuron, when opposition leaders Machar, Pagan Amum and Rebecca Nyandeng voted to boycott the meeting.

President Kiir ordered the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Major General Marial Ciennoung, commander of the Presidential Guard (The Tiger Battalion) to leave the meeting venue and return to the barracks to disarm the troops.

After disarming all ethnicities within the guard, Marial allegedly ordered that the Dinka members be re-armed.

His deputy, from the Nuer ethnicity, began to question this order and a fight ensued when surrounding officers saw the commotion.

The Nuer soldiers also re-armed themselves.

Fighting erupted between the Dinka elements of the Presidential Guard and the Nuer elements, lasting from Sunday night until Monday afternoon.

President Salva Kiir called it a coup attempt and announced that it had been put down the next day, but fighting again erupted on 16 December and spread beyond the capital, Juba, to the region around Jonglei which is prone to ethnic conflict.

Early estimates stated that at least 1,000 people were reported to have been killed and over 800 other people were injured in Juba.

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