Witness: Gunfire erupts in army base in South Sudan capital
An attempted arrest of Brig, Gen Gatwech Gai Vs Salaries Accounts
By Carl Odera, Reuters.
March 5, 2014 [JUBA, (Reuters)] — Gunfire erupted inside the main military barracks in the South Sudanese capital Juba on Wednesday, a Reuters witness said, in an apparent pay dispute almost three months after fighting between soldiers in the city sparked a broader conflict.
The body of a government soldier lay in the street outside the military headquarters and a column of smoke billowed into the sky from inside the compound, sending panicked residents running through the streets.
“We’re fighting over money,” one soldier shouted from the entrance of the Jebel barracks as gunshots rang out.
In an effort to restore the battered confidence of donors to Africa’s newest nation, the government is rolling out a payment system that requires troops and civil servants to be paid in person to ensure wages are not paid to “ghost” workers or to those who don’t turn up.
The unrest appeared to be confined to the barracks, although government forces swiftly deployed in heavy numbers in surrounding streets, setting up roadblocks.
Thousands of civilians have been killed in an almost three-month-long conflict between the government forces of President Salva Kiir and rebels loyal to Riek Machar, who Kiir sacked as his deputy in July.
Although Juba has been largely calm since fighting first broke out among rival groups in the presidential guard in mid-December, rebel threats of an eventual assault on the city have left many anxious.
March 5, 2014 (JUBA) – Heavy fighting erupted Wednesday morning in the South Sudanese capital as sounds of machine guns and heavy artillery sent Juba residents into panic as many fled work places.
The fighting started at about 9am at a military barrack, locally known as Geida, where violence began on 15 December 2013 between soldiers loyal to president Salva Kiir and those supporting his ex-vice president, Riek Machar
Thick smoke could be seen bellowing over the barracks located south-east of Juba as uncontrolled gunfire continued in the military facility for most of the early hours.
Military sources told Sudan Tribune that the clashes involved the presidential guards, known as the Tiger and Commando units at the barracks.
The clashes are the heaviest since mid-December violence, eyewitnesses say.
The cause of the fighting was not known, but sources say there was an attempt to arrest the commander of the Commando Unit, Brig. Gatwech Gai, which might have resulted in to resistance from his forces.
The fighting was still going on at 10am with sounds of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and heavy artilleries shaking the city.
An eyewitness said he saw dozens of injured soldiers being rushed to Juba teaching hospital. Several others, unconfirmed reports say, have also been killed in the clashes
“The military are now patrolling the city and have set up road blocks on major highways,” said the eye witness, citing roads leading to the airport and the military headquarters.
Currently, Juba resident are reportedly experiencing a temporary interference with most phone networks.
- Sudan Tribune for more details….