Nairobi – Five South Sudanese government soldiers were killed in a
shootout on Thursday night between opposing army factions in the capital, a
military official said on Friday.
A convoy of soldiers loyal to former rebel leader and sitting
First Vice President Riek Machar opened fire on a checkpoint in Juba manned by
troops from President Salva Kiir's faction, said Lul Ruai Koang, a spokesperson
for government troops. Koang said five of the soldiers were killed
"We returned fire but it was limited fire," he said.
But William Gatjieth, a spokesperson for Machar's faction, accused
Kiir's soldiers of firing on an opposition convoy as it approached the
checkpoint in the Gudele area of Juba. He said two soldiers from his side were
The opposing army factions have been stationed in Juba since
April, part of a peace deal signed last year to unite the warring factions
after more than two years of civil war in which tens of thousands of people
The two sides are meant to hold joint patrols to keep peace in the
city, where violence broke out in December 2013 after a skirmish between
soldiers in a barracks. However, the two sides have yet to work together in the
city and remain stationed in separate areas.
Gatjieth demanded that Kiir's forces allow opposition soldiers to
join them at checkpoints and carry out security operations together.
The conflict research group International Crisis Group warned last
week that the country could return to full-scale war because the two sides are
not showing willingness to implement security arrangements.
The Thursday clash follows rising tension in the city. Gatjieth
accused the government of killing two opposition soldiers in Juba last week.
International organisations have limited their movements in recent
days. The United Nations mission said on Thursday that they stepped up patrols
around their base in response but would not increase patrols in the city.
"The danger all along is with so many soldiers in this
so-called demilitarised city of Juba that some kind of spark could set the
whole thing off," said John Young, a South Sudan expert with the
Geneva-based Small Arms Survey research group.