Juba, South Sudan, Tuesday 17th December 2013, 15:00 local time.
This blog post will be of interest to those in Juba/South Sudan or those monitoring the situation closely. As a situation report, it will be out of date within hours. Please note it’s a sitrep, not an analysis of root causes of the instability. It’s written on the 2nd day of a lockdown.
The origins of the fighting are still a matter of debate. There is a growing consensus there was no attempted coup (see this accurate analysis piece from the Economist). Security sources with access are still unclear on the origins of the violence: whether there was a rumour of an arrest or whether there was an actual attempt to arrest the ex VP. In any case, violence and instability spread quickly. The very strong response by the government security forces in turn caused more groups to seize arms and protest/defend themselves. The result is a very tense situation which is projected to continue in the weeks to come even if the current levels of fighting decrease.
There is heavy fighting ongoing in the SPLA base in Bilpam which is near the airport. The airport is closed down and all flights have been cancelled (though there have been three small planes in late morning/early afternoon of Tuesday 17th of December, presumed carrying government staff). There is no information as to when the airport may re-open. The bridge out of Juba is closed as well: it’s currently not possible to leave Juba.
The instability has already spread to Jonglei. There are rumours of heavy fighting reported in Pibor and the situation in Bor is very tense: deaths have been reported and large numbers are seeking refuge at UNMISS in Bor.
There are over 13,000 people who have sought refuge inside the UNMISS bases in Juba. They have received water but no food over the last two days. Many of those who fled are reporting brutal attacks.
The security situation in Juba is very tense. There is open fighting throughout the entire city, with occasional heavy fighting flaring up in certain areas. The house of the sacked ex-VP, Riek Machar, was assaulted with heavy artillery for several hours in mid morning of the 17th of December: no figures of casualties but all inside presumed dead. There is a 6pm to 6am official curfew, but most people are staying home at all times. There are also unconfirmed reports of civilians being armed, as well as of government forces warning civilians not to accept arms.
Twitter is currently the best source of information, with an active community sharing information on areas where violence flares up. For official information, @USMissionJuba is the most active and responsive of all the consular tweeter feeds.