Violence has intensified in South Sudan’s capital Juba over the weekend. Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) experts fear the country is in risk of sliding into a new civil war. FCA’s office in Juba has been closed. Work elsewhere in the country continues.
On Monday, different news outlets reported nearly 300 dead in the fighting.
“Most likely the number of victim is much larger than what the international media has reported. Heavy weapons and armoured vehicles are now used in the fighting”, says Mika Jokivuori, FCA Regional Representative for East and Southern Africa.
“The streets were full of heavily armed soldiers and civilians and there were checkpoints everywhere. The situation was extremely tense”, reported FCA’s Peacebuilding Officer Marie Makweri from Juba on Friday.
“The airport was completely full, a large portion of the local elite were exiting the country as well. There were also many women, families and unaccompanied children.”
Over the weekend, thousands sought refuge in churches and UN bases. On Monday, the airport in Juba was closed and phone lines were cutting off.
“This conflict means that rebuilding infrastructure and organising education take huge steps backward. Ordinary people suffer the most. Despite various difficulties, a lot of good has been achieved in South Sudan over the past few years”, says Jokivuori.
President Salva Kiir and Vice-president Riek Machar have been fighting for power since the signing of the previous peace treaty in August 2015, and South Sudan’s fifth Independence Day on Saturday might have caused violence to re-erupt.
On Monday evening, a ceasefire was reached and will hopefully lead to the return of peaceful conditions.
FCA’s work outside the capital city continues for the time being.