South Sudan rebuffs rumours of leader's death

South Sudan rebuffs rumours of leader's death
South Sudan's government are attempting to restore calm amid rumours of President Salva Kiir's death, while rebels battle troops near the capital.
2 min read
12 October, 2016

South Sudan's government has been forced to deny that President Salva Kiir had died, amid days of speculation over his health raising tension during a critical time for the country.

"This is a mere lie, there is nothing as such, Salva Kiir has not even been sick," Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth told reporters in the country's capital.

The minister also slammed the "wild rumours" he said were aimed at dividing South Sudan's population.

The rumours about Kiir's alleged demise, spread on social media and reached as far as Uganda - where the 65-year-old was reported to have gone  for medical treatment.

The uncertainty caused by the former rebel leader's state coincided with an upsurge in violence in Juba. Extra numbers of soldiers were deployed to the capital in a bid to restore calm.

"We are scared of the situation. You cannot know what is exactly happening but (there are) rumours that the president has died. Well, it is said fighting may break out and this is why I am scared," said Moses Modi, a Juba resident who was staying at home because of safety concerns.

Another Juba resident reported that some schools had sent pupils back home.

"There are soldiers deployed along the road. Mainly the roads around the ministries and the State House... I am at work but leaving (for) home now. Because the tension is high," she added.

South Sudan descended into political turmoil just two and a half years after gaining independence in July 2011. This came after Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

The resultant conflict between troops loyal to the two leaders has displaced over a million people, according to UNCHR.

In recent weeks, this has seen fierce exchanges between the rival groups in the northern town of Leer. This resulted in an unknown number of deaths and the flight of many local people from the area, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reported.

UNMISS also said that it had been blocked from accessing an area where 21 civilians were killed between Juba and the city of Yei over the weekend.

The mision on Wednesday said it was "extremely concerned" over increased reports of violence and armed conflict in various parts of the country in the last few weeks.