No less than 115 soldiers from different armed factions in South Sudan have died after gun battles broke out across the capital Juba on the eve of the country’s fifth independence anniversary, a military spokesman for the opposition said on Saturday.
The gunfight had begun on Friday outside the presidential compound as President Salva Kiir was meeting with his vice president and former rebel leader Riek Machar and then spread through the city.
The cause of the fight remains unknown as both men insisted that the meeting was aimed at pacifying the heated polarity between their factions.
William Gatjiath Deng, spokesman for Machar’s military faction, said the fighting had occurred near the state house and in army barracks.
“In the morning we collected and counted 35 (dead) from the SPLM-IO (Machar’s faction) and 80 people from the government forces,” he said.
Deng said the death toll could rise on the side of Mr Machar “because there are some soldiers seriously wounded”.
Also, local broadcaster Radio Tamazuj put the number of total deaths to 146.
The outburst of violence has thrown a fragile peace into jeopardy – a peace agreement ending a two year civil war was only negotiated in August 2015.
South Sudan was founded with celebrations in the capital on July 9, 2011, after it gained independence from Sudan in a referendum that passed with close to 100 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, British nationals have been advised to leave the country and non-essential embassy staff are being withdrawn.
“South Sudan today marked the most horrifying Independence Day in the world this year,” said government official James Gatdet Dak on Facebook.