Machar soldiers' death triggered deadly conflict, claims official

Thursday July 14 2016

South Sudan Ambassador to Kenya Chol Ajongo addressing journalists at his offices in Nairobi on July 12, 2016 where he said that so far 272 people have died in South Sudan following four days of deadly gun battles in the Juba. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

South Sudan Ambassador to Kenya Chol Ajongo addressing journalists at his offices in Nairobi on July 12, 2016 where he said that so far 272 people have died in South Sudan following four days of deadly gun battles in the Juba. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By STELLA CHERONO
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The killing of two senior army officers affiliated to South Sudanese First Vice President Riek Machar initiated the recent violence, an official has said.

A representative of Dr Machar in Kenya, Mr Lam Jock, on Wednesday said the allegations made by the country’s ambassador to Kenya, Mr Chol Ajong, that a text message sparked the violence were “baseless”.

Mr Jock said on July 1, army officer Lt Col George Gismala of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition, was shot dead by troops affiliated to President Salva Kiir.

“Later on the same day he was killed, another officer, Lt Col Demach Koat, was attacked, shot and killed near the barracks and like Lt Col Gismala, his body was taken away by his killers,” Mr Jock said.

For two days, he said, tension was high in the South Sudanese Capital Juba, before the bodies were discovered. “We then launched a complaint with the Joint Monitoring Evaluation Commission,” he said.

SEARCHING VEHICLES

The commission was formed to monitor and oversee the implementation of the agreement, mandate and tasks of the Transitional Government of National Unity in the country.

After the burial of the two army officers on Wednesday last week and Thursday, police officers from the National Security began moving around searching vehicles at roadblocks.

Dr Machar’s bodyguards, he said, were attacked the same night and a fighting ensued as each side of the rival forces sent reinforcements. Five police officers from President Kiir’s side were killed and this prompted the President to invite Dr Machar to State House on Friday.

“Dr Machar went to State House with 35 guards the next day and while they were discussing how to manage the country’s situation, soldiers...whose commander in chief is President Kiir, started shooting at the soldiers from the opposition, leading to a fierce gunfight,” he said.

The fighting that erupted thereafter has led to the death of more than 250 people in the past one week in the volatile country.