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South Sudan: How 1 Facebook post may have sparked 26K exodus to Uganda

South Sudan: How 1 Facebook post may have sparked 26K exodus to Uganda

Some 26,000 flee South Sudan to find refuge in Uganda while a Facebook post by the vice-president’s staff may have been the catalyst that sparked the exodus.

Earlier this month the press secretary for South Sudan’s vice-president posted on Facebook that the VP’s rival, President Salva Kiir, had detained the VP at the presidential palace. It has since been confirmed that Vice-President Riek Machar was at the palace for a security briefing meeting and was not detained in any way.

Nevertheless, what followed was the killing of some 270 people that took place outside the presidential palace over clashes between the ethnically-divided Kiir and Machar supporters respectively.

South Sudan Ambassador Chol Ajongo claimed that Kiir’s press secretary’s Facebook post was the catalyst that informed the army of the VP’s false detainment, and that sparked the recent killings.

Kiir’s press secretary denied that he had anything to do with the outbreak of violence, claiming, “What the ambassador said was a lie. I do agree that I posted a message on Facebook but this message was posted after the fighting erupted at the palace.”

Machar’s spokesperson went on to say, “I suspected that the fighting erupted because there was an intention to harm the first Vice President. It was a pre-plan.”

The Facebook post is nowhere near being the culprit of tension and violence in the country; however, its timing has been instrumental in prolonging the fighting and gave the perfect excuse for pro-Machar forces to begin shooting outside the presidential palace, which led to 26,000 people fleeing the country.

Breaking news July 23

Today, South Sudan’s armed opposition has stated that Machar has been removed as vice-president. The rebels’ chief negotiator has been named the new vice-president to Kiir until Machar returns to the capital, Juba.

Although the transition hasn’t been officially recognized, Al-Jazeera reported, “Machar’s camp here in Juba seems to be rallying to replace him with his former chief negotiator during the peace talks, Taban Deng. Taban Deng is here in Juba and it appears there is some kind of a split in Machar’s camp.”

Vice-President Machar fled the capital earlier this month after violence erupted that killed 300 people, and he has no plans of returning until it’s safe for him to do so.

26,000 flee South Sudan for Uganda in July

In the last seven days alone, at least 24,321 South Sudanese have fled to Uganda with more than 90% being women and children, according to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement declaring:

“I am shocked and appalled by the heavy fighting that is currently taking place in Juba. I strongly urge President Kiir and First Vice-President Riek Machar to do everything within their power to de-escalate the hostilities immediately and to order their respective forces to disengage and withdraw to their bases. This senseless violence is unacceptable and has the potential of reversing the progress made so far in the peace process.”

In South Sudan’s civil war from 2013-2015, “50,000 were killed, more than 2 million displaced, and nearly 5 million people faced severe food shortages.”

South Sudan turns 5

Celebrating just its 5th anniversary since becoming a country, South Sudan is the youngest nation in the world. It was born out of bloodshed, and it has already seen more blood spilled in the last five years than what most see on their native soil in decades.

Both President Kiir and Vice-President Machar fought side-by-side for South Sudan’s independence in 2011, but became bitter enemies soon after. In 2013, Kiir dismissed Machar from duty during a purge of his cabinet, but famine and war gave rise to Machar being re-instated as vice-president last year in an attempt to restore the peace in the country and end a 20-month civil war.

Now that Machar refuses to come to the South Sudanese capital under fear of being ousted or even killed by Kiir and his supporters.

“There is no point to come back to be assassinated,” Machar’s spokesman Goi Jooyul Yol told AFP, speaking from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

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Tim Hinchliffe is a veteran journalist whose passions include writing about how technology impacts society and Artificial Intelligence. He prefers writing in-depth, interesting features that people actually want to read. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle in West Africa, and Colombia Reports in South America. tim@sociable.co

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