People flee fighting to UN base in western South Sudan
Some 200 people have been forced to seek refuge at a United Nations (UN) compound in South Sudan following the eruption of armed violence among various groups in the area.
Heavy mortar and machine gun fire was heard south of the UN base in the western town of Wau on Thursday morning, according to Shantal Persaud, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
She said sporadic shooting was going on for at least one hour, but it was not clear what caused the fighting or which groups were involved.
“After the shooting started, some 200-250 civilians arrived at… the UNMISS Wau base,” she said.
The UN base is home to some 19,000 residents, who are displaced by fighting in the country.
In June, fighting forced some 88,000 to flee their homes, with almost 20,000 seeking shelter beside the UN base in the town of Wau.
Earlier this month, the UN aid chief for South Sudan, Eugene Owusu, paid a visit to Wau. He expressed “shock and outrage” over the suffering that civilians have endured as a result of violence.
In a separate incident in the capital, Juba, gunfire prompted military forces to block some roads on Thursday evening, witnesses told Reuters.
“I heard a sound of gunshots and people were running everywhere,” said a Juba resident.
“The military put their cars in the middle of the road coming from Gudele… the whole area is (in) lockdown by the government military,” said another witness.
The county has become the scene of renewed fighting between government forces and armed groups in recent days.
Thousands of people have been killed and more than two million forced to flee their homes in the war that started in December 2013, when President Salva Kiir sacked his deputy Riek Machar only two years after the country seceded from Sudan.
The two sides eventually signed an agreement in August last year to bring the conflict to an end. As part of the deal, Machar returned to Juba in April to take up the post of vice president in a national unity government.
Africa’s youngest country now prepares to mark the fifth anniversary of its independence on Saturday.
Meanwhile, nearly five million people are in need of food to survive a famine.