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Envoy: Chaos sparked by text message about Machar

Wednesday July 13 2016

South Sudanese government attack helicopters hover over the Checkpoint district of the capital Juba, near the Jebel district which has seen some of the heaviest fighting, on July 11, 2016. PHOTO | AFP

South Sudanese government attack helicopters hover over the Checkpoint district of the capital Juba, near the Jebel district which has seen some of the heaviest fighting, on July 11, 2016. PHOTO | AFP 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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A text message from the spokesman of South Sudan’s First Vice President Riek Machar was the incendiary material behind the violence that has killed 272 people in Juba, an envoy has claimed.

South Sudan’s Ambassador to Kenya Chol Ajong claimed Mr James Gatdet Dak alerted the forces allied to Dr Machar of their leaders’ “detention” at the presidential palace even though he was having a formal meeting with President Salva Kiir.

In the narrative publicised on Tuesday, Mr Ajong said the message which was also posted on Facebook inspired the former rebel forces to move into the city where the fighting erupted.

“His troops who were stationed outside the town started marching towards the town,” he said.

“President and vice president were meeting in Juba to address security problems, then one of the soldiers belonging to the SPLM in opposition wanted to force his way through. As a result of that, he was denied access and fighting broke out.”

FLIGHTS AFFECTED

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Violence in South Sudan erupted last week among soldiers allied to Kiir and Machar at a presidential palace before snowballing to civilian residential areas in Juba.

It affected businesses and workers stayed at home due to insecurity.

Kenya Airways, which flies daily to Juba, suspended its flights, citing the closed airport and insecurity.

“We are monitoring the security situation in Juba and will advise on any changes to our flight schedule,” the airline said on its Twitter page, soon after the ceasefire was announced.

But the South Sudanese diplomat said Mr Dak would have to be investigated to prevent further incitement.

“We are expecting investigations to be conducted by the president or the leader of the person who has sent the text. We thought that was irresponsible for him to do and he has caused a lot of suffering in the country,” he said.

On Tuesday, Mr Dak denied the accusation of incitement but stood by his text message.

“I said at the time that I suspected the motive was to arrest the First Vice President. The manner in which he was invited for the meeting was fishy,” Mr Dak told the Nation.

“Soon after he went to the palace, the government forces mobilised and soldiers surrounded the palace and they started to fire at the First Vice President’s bodyguards. It was fishy. I still stand by it,” he added.

He has since deleted the Facebook post.

On Tuesday, Mr Ajong said Juba’s main airport had been reopened.