August 18, 2014 (KAMPALA) – A five-year-old boy sheltering at the UN camp in Unity state capital Bentiu has reportedly been wounded by a stray bullet after soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) fired their guns in the air as part of celebrations marking the 59th anniversary of the Torit mutiny in 1955.
According to a source working for an aid agency at the UN camp, the random shooting created panic among local residents.
The aid worker accused the SPLA of deliberately targeting civilians at the camp, saying it many more had potentially been injured as a result of the gunfire.
“What happen today was bad, when [the] national army shoots in air with an intention to target the civilians who are residing in the UNMISS protection site,” the NGO worker said.
The aid worker claimed staff from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) approached senior government officials about the incident, but were told the army had a right to celebrate the Torit mutiny as the genesis of South Sudan’s independence.
Unconfirmed reports from one resident residing at the camp said a number of civilians who were trying to return to town were also shot dead by pro-government forces around the airstrip.
Mary Nyatene, who was among those allegedly fired on by pro-government forces on Monday, told Sudan Tribune by satellite phone, claiming she saw a number of men and women fall to the ground after the army opened fire on them.
“I saw many women and men fallen down when I was crawling to nearby grass for hiding for safety,” said Nyatene.
Sudan Tribune was unable to independently verify the claims.
However, NGOs staff on the ground told Sudan Tribune by satellite phone that they were aware of reports that residents attempting to move from Rubkotna on Monday morning had been fired on.
“We have heard that people were shot dead when they are trying to return to Rubkotna. I cannot confirm it is true because none of us went out, we could only refer this as a hearsay from people,” said one aid worker.
Many local residents have questioned the reasons behind the SPLA’s celebrations, given that the event had never been commemorated in any of South Sudan’s 10 states before or after independence from Sudan in 2011.