World·CBC in South Sudan

'A tent cannot stop a bullet': 8 killed and dozens injured at UN camp in South Sudan

When the bullets started flying, people had nowhere to run. "People were running into the tents. You know a tent cannot stop a bullet," said Boum Kaboung, a South Sudanese man living on Juba's west side in a United Nations camp for displaced people where gunfire killed eight and injured 59 others Monday.

President declares ceasefire Monday evening after another day of violence

Displaced women, men and children gather to seek shelter at the UN compound in the Tomping area of Juba, South Sudan. Heavy explosions shook Juba Monday morning as clashes between government and opposition forces entered their fifth day. (Associated Press)

When the bullets started flying, people had nowhere to run.

"People were running into the tents. You know a tent cannot stop a bullet," said Boum Kaboung, a South Sudanese man living on Juba's west side in a United Nations camp for displaced people where gunfire killed eight and injured 59 others Monday.

Heavy fighting in South Sudan's capital city has killed at least 300 people and injured many more. The UN says at least 7,000 people have sought shelter at its compounds since the fighting began Friday.

The violence broke out at the president's official residence between government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and fighters loyal to First Vice-President Riek Machar.
South Sudan First Vice-President Riek Machar (L) and President Salva Kiir held a press conference at the presidential palace in Juba on Friday after the fighting broke out. (Associated Press)

South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, had been recovering from a two-year civil war that erupted in 2013 after the president, an ethnic Dinka, accused the vice-president, a Nuer, of planning a coup. The war killed tens of thousands of people and started with a similar clash between the rival political factions.

On Monday, two days after the country was meant to celebrate its five years of independence, streets were empty as loud explosions and gunfire were heard near the airport and the United Nations base on the city's west side.

Camp is chaotic

"We don't feel like we are now a country," said Kaboung, a former government worker who has lived in the UN camp since the civil war began.

Kaboung said the situation in the camp is chaotic.
Chinese UN peacekeepers tend to a wounded colleague after an attack on an armoured personal carrier used by the Chinese peacekeepers in Jebel, South Sudan. (Associated Press)

The incessant noise of gunfire, RPGs, tanks and attack helicopters had the residents running for cover. Some UN staff, who live in the nearby base, lay on the floors of their apartments for hours to avoid stray bullets.

Although the fighting quieted around 3 p.m. Monday at the camp, Kaboung said the situation remains volatile. People are running out of food and water. They're afraid the fighting will start again.

In the city, the streets were quiet.

'A lot of destruction'

At the Juba Youth Training Centre, South Sudanese-Canadian Puro Okelo Obob was sheltering five families who fled fighting in Gudele, a neighbourhood in the city's northwest.

He runs a kickboxing gym out of a technical training school located in the centre.
South Sudanese-Canadian Puro Okelo Obob is held up in the Juba Youth Training Centre. He said water supplies in some parts of the city are beginning to run out. (Carolyn Thompson/CBC News)

He said the streets were deserted and shops closed Monday morning. The only people outside other than military were those carrying small packs of belongings, seeking safety across the Nile River in a neighbourhood east of the city.

"There is a lot of destruction," he said. "A lot of displaced people. A lot of homeless. People have no place to go."

Obob said water supplies have dwindled in some areas, leaving people drinking from pools of rainwater.

Stephen Affear Ochalla said when fighting broke out near his Gudele home, he decided to walk to the centre, where he runs a cooking program.

When he heard shots getting closer, he ran.

He said his other family members are hiding out in relatives' homes.

'I am so scared'

Eveline Limu Buni went to pray for peace at church Sunday morning. Instead, she took cover there for hours, waiting for the gunfire outside to calm down so she could make her way home to Munuki, a neighbourhood in the city's north end.

She spoke to CBC News on Monday with the sound of gunfire in the background.

"I am so scared. People did not go to work. People are fearing to go out," she said.
South Sudanese policemen and soldiers are seen along a street following renewed fighting in South Sudan's capital Juba. (Reuters)

President Salva Kiir declared a unilateral ceasefire Monday evening, set to start at 6 p.m. Shortly after, troops celebrated, peppering the city with a raucous chorus of gunfire.

But some of those displaced by the violence are worried it's not over yet.

Ochalla said he's disappointed South Sudan's independence day was marred by fighting and fears it could worsen. He called on the international community to act.

"If people want to react, they have to react now — or it will be too late for South Sudan."

Armoured vehicle attacked at refugee camp 0:49

About the Author

Carolyn Thompson is a journalist and media trainer based in Juba, South Sudan. She previously worked for several Canadian newspapers.

With files from The Associated Press