JUBA: South Sudan’s capital was calm but tense on Thursday, witnesses said, the day after fighting broke out between soldiers, in an apparent pay dispute, and a night of heavy gunfire.
Many residents spent the night barricaded in their homes as several hours of sporadic and sometimes heavy gunfire shook a number of areas of the city, although it was unclear if battles were being fought or if soldiers were just shooting randomly.
The government insisted no fighting took place and the situation was under their control.
“This is a normal thing that is usually done by indiscipline soldiers. There was no fighting in Juba last night. It was just sporadic shooting by undisciplined soldiers,” said South Sudan government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth.
South Sudan’s government has been at war with rebel groups since December 15, when a clash between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar snowballed into full-scale fighting across the world’s newest nation.
Since the initial week of fighting in Juba, the capital has been largely calm and key installations have been guarded by Ugandan troops, who intervened in the conflict in support of Kiir.
But on Wednesday at least five soldiers died when heavy fighting broke out in the main military barracks in Juba, underscoring serious tensions within the national army.