July 21, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, for the first time in two weeks has revealed an allegation that he was almost killed by his first deputy, Riek Machar, when fighting broke out at the presidential palace in Juba on 8 July while they were in a meeting.
- South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir, seen in Addis Ababa on January 29, 2015 (Photo AFP Zacharias Abubeker)
In his first interview on Wednesday in Juba with the China Central Television (CCTV) inside the Presidential Palace, known as J1, where the fighting took place between their rival forces, President Kiir also said Machar would not have too survived if he had killed him.
The President said Machar was carrying a pistol when the fighting erupted, but added that Machar was calm and he had not threatened the president with the pistol.
“He was carrying his pistol…He did not say it, whether he wanted to assassinate me,” President Kiir told the CCTV while showing the reporter inside the palace rooms where the three leaders, including Vice President, James Wani, were meeting.
“But what happened here even if he had to shoot me, he would have not gone out of this room,” President Kiir added, implying that both of them would have been dead.
President Kiir however said he “protected” and “saved” Machar from his close bodyguards who looked aggressive, saying he was warning them whenever he saw their “unfriendly” behavior towards Machar. He did not however say where Machar’s close bodyguards were who were also inside the palace at the time of the incident.
Kiir also did not make it clear how he knew Machar was carrying a pistol whether he was holding it in his hand or in the pocket.
But when asked by the CCTV reporter whether he was worried for his life when he knew that Machar was carrying a pistol, President Kiir who also looked exhausted replied, “not at all.” “Instead I was worried about his life.”
He narrated that as soon as fighting erupted outside the fence of his palace, he told his two deputies to relocate to another room with him, in order to protect them.
President Kiir also revealed that he and Machar decided to hold their hands during the clashes, so that they were not separated, but could not say whether it was a mutual decision or they were holding themselves hostage.
The head of state said he had to bring Machar up to his car and gave him “fare well” to his residence of Jebel Kujur at night after fighting stopped, adding that his forces had to escort him.
No detailed narrative of what transpired inside the palace has yet come out directly from Machar. He however told the BBC Focus on Africa last week that the fighting at the palace was “calculated to kill” him.
Earlier, his officials said President Kiir was also ensuring his own safety by staying near to Machar inside the palace, adding that the close bodyguards of the two leaders did not fight inside J1 to target the two leaders.
The two leaders, Machar’s official said “happened to get stuck with each other” inside the palace and nobody wanted to leave the palace as fighting was raging on outside.
There are conflicting reports as to which side was responsible for the starting of the fighting, but the CCTV reporter who interviewed the president said he was told by “officials” that the fighting started at about 4:30pm when an ambulance suddenly appeared at the gate of the palace.
He said when the ambulance turned on its siren to signal the starting of the shooting, the fighting immediately erupted. He did not say which side owned the ambulance.