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Coup attempt thwarted, says South Sudan president

© AP Live screenshot

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-16

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Monday said government forces had thwarted an attempted coup allegedly engineered by former vice president Riek Machar who was fired from his post in July.

In a televised address to the nation, and flanked by government officials, the president said the military had foiled a coup orchestrated by “a group of soldiers allied with the former vice president”.

The soldiers had attacked the South Sudanese military headquarters in the capital  of Juba late on Sunday, sparking sporadic clashes that continued Monday, he said.

“The attackers went and [the] armed forces are pursuing them,” Kiir said, who was dressed in military uniform rather than his trademark suit and cowboy hat. “I promise you today that justice will prevail”.

The government is now “in full control of the military situation” in Juba, he said, ordering a dawn-to-dusk curfew in the city.

The UN urges calm

The United Nations said Monday that hundreds of terrified civilians had sought refuge in a UN compound while others had locked themselves in their homes or were trying to flee to safer areas.

Hilde Johnson, special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for South Sudan, said in a statement that the UN mission in Juba was “deeply concerned” over the fighting.

“As the Special Representative of the Secretary General I urge all parties in the fighting to cease hostilities immediately and exercise restraint,” the statement said. “I have been in touch regularly with the key leaders, including at the highest levels to call for calm.”

Machar an arch-rival

Tension have been mounting in South Sudan since Kiir fired Machar as his deputy in July.

Machar, who has expressed a willingness to contest the presidency in 2015, said after he was fired that if the country is to be united it cannot tolerate a “one man’s rule or it cannot tolerate dictatorship.”

Machar’s ouster, part of a wider dismissal of the entire cabinet by Kiir, followed reports of a power struggle within the ruling party. At the time, the United States and the European Union urged calm amid fears the dismissals could spark political upheaval in the country.

While Kiir is leader of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement party, many of the dismissed ministers, including Machar, were key figures in the rebel movement that fought a decades-long war against Sudan that led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011. Machar, a deputy chairman of the ruling party, is one of the country’s most influential politicians.

Officials said some arrests had been made after the botched coup attempt, but the fate of Machar was unclear -- with the US embassy in Juba and the UN denying they had given him shelter.

South Sudan has experienced bouts of ethnic violence, especially in rural Jonglei state, since the country peacefully broke away from Sudan after a brutal civil war.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

Date created : 2013-12-16


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