December 17, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) - The chairperson of the commission of the African Union (AU), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has expressed deep concern about the situation in South Sudan, following the outbreak of fighting in the capital, Juba, on Sunday.
- Civilians arrive at UNMISS compound adjacent to Juba International Airport to take refuge, on 17 December 2013 (AP Photo/UNMISS/Rolla Hinedi)
In a statement released on Monday and extended to Sudan Tribune, the chairperson said she is particularly concerned about the safety and security of the civilian population.
Fighting broke out in the capital on Sunday evening between armed groups at a military base and was reportedly continuing on Tuesday, with gunfire heard across the city despite assurances from the South Sudanese government that the situation was under control.
Dlamini-Zuma urged the South Sudanese government and other parties involved “to exercise maximum restraint and avert any further escalation” in the conflict.
She also called on the parties involved to seek a peaceful resolution to their differences, “with due respect for the rule of law, human rights and constitutional legality”, saying the AU was willing to assist in finding a solution to the current situation.
The AU’s calls came as the United States urged parties involved in the conflict to desist from violence and seek a peaceful solution.
US special envoy Donald Booth took to Twitter on Monday to call for calm, saying political disputes should be resolved through dialogue not violence.
President Salva Kiir has accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of orchestrating a coup attempt to overthrow his government.
Several former ministers have been taken into custody in connection with the incident, while the whereabouts of others remain unknown.
Kiir has also imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Juba, as the capital’s usually busy streets remain largely deserted
However, the circumstances surrounding the alleged coup remain unclear, with many reports contradicting the government’s official version of events, claiming that tensions between the ruling party’s (SPLM) leadership in recent weeks spread to the army (SPLA), sparking clashes between supporters of Kiir and Machar.
On Monday, presidential guards raided Machar’s house in the Amarat district, destroying much of the property. He was not at home at the time and his whereabouts remain unknown.
Health officials said at least 26 people had been confirmed dead at Juba teaching hospital, while more than 113 people had been treated for gunshot wounds.