A businessman from Johannesburg was barricaded in a hotel in the strife-torn South Sudan for a week with a dwindling food supply.
Speaking on Thursday from an airport in South Sudan just before boarding a flight to Kenya, Obakeng David Morebodi told the Cape Times he wanted to leave the country as soon as possible.
“We could hear gunshots. Gunshot and explosions,” he said, recalling his time in the hotel in the capital, Juba.
Morebodi spoke over a crackly phone line and had to raise his voice to be heard above loud noises in the background.
A Reuters report said soldiers in Juba had killed up to 500 people in clashes since Sunday in what President Salva Kiir had said was an attempted coup launched by ousted vice-president Riek Machar’s supporters.
Some countries were helping their citizens to flee Juba.
On Thursday Morebodi, who asked that the name of the company he worked for not be divulged, said he had arrived there on business on December 10.
He said that on Sunday, the day before he was meant to leave the country, the fighting had started.
“They closed the borders, the airport, we couldn’t fly out. We were not allowed to go out on the street. We were kept indoors.
“I was in the hotel. There were no supplies of food coming from the outside.
“Whatever we had, we had to share. The hotel basically ran out of food,” Morebodi said.
He said he had struggled to get hold of the South Africa embassy in South Sudan and the company he worked for had organised his departure.
He saw a number of people in the streets during a taxi ride to the airport on Thursday.
“If you’re not from this country, you’ll be scared. Sometimes when we heard explosions, we wanted to run. Then (the locals) would ask: ‘Where you going?’,” Morebodi said.
He was expected to land in Johannesburg on Friday morning.
Morebodi was then expected to attend his grandmother’s funeral on Saturday.
On Thursday, International Relations and Co-operation Department spokesman Clayson Monyela did not respond to queries by deadline.
However, he was quoted in a number of online articles as saying the South African government was shocked at the alleged coup attempt.
On Thursday, a UK government website said an aircraft was on its way to Juba to evacuate Britons wishing to leave.
The US embassy in South Sudan said on its website the Department of State had on Tuesday ordered “the departure of non-emergency US embassy personnel from Juba” and that US citizens were being helped to leave.
“Because of the current security situation and imposed curfew, US citizens should shelter in place for the night with all essential items (water, food, diapers, necessary medications, etc),” the website said.
South Sudan’s military said yesterday it no longer controlled a key town in a rural state where fighting has spread in the aftermath of what the government says was an attempted coup.
The authorities in Bor, the capital of the state of Jonglei, were not answering their phones, leading the central government to believe they had defected, said Philip Aguer, the South Sudanese military spokesman.
“We lost control of Bor to the rebellion,” he said.
He said there were reported gunfights in Bor overnight as renegade officers tried to wrest control of the town from loyalist forces there.
- AP reports that at least 19 civilians have been killed in violence in Bor, Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for the UN secretary-general’s office, said on Wednesday, citing figures from the South Sudan Red Cross.
He said tensions were also on the rise in the states of Unity and Upper Nile.
Ethnic rivalry is threatening to tear apart the world’s newest country, with the clashes apparently pitting soldiers from the majority Dinka tribe of Kiir against those from ousted Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.
At least 500 people, most of them soldiers, have been killed in violence since the alleged coup attempt began, the government said on Wednesday.
At least 700 more have been wounded, Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said.
Although Juba, the South Sudanese capital where the alleged coup was mounted, has since become calm, violence appears to be spreading to other parts of the oil-rich African nation. - Cape Times