S. Sudan Independence Day gun battles in capital claim over 100

© Goran Tomasevic
The UN Security Council has condemned renewed violence in South Sudan after at least 100 people were killed in gun battles across the capital, Juba, on the eve of the country's fifth independence anniversary.

Gunfire in the capital erupted outside the presidential palace at around 4:20pm on Friday as President Salva Kiir had been holding a meeting to discuss a previous clash in which five government soldiers were killed the day before.

What caused the violence to erupt still remains unclear, but a spokesman for Machar's military faction, said the fighting started next to the state house and in the army barracks. By the end of the gun battle, at least 115 people had been killed.

"In the morning we collected and counted 35 (dead) from the SPLM-IO (Machar's faction) and 80 people from the government forces," William Gatjiath Deng told Reuters.

The number of casualties has yet to be officially announced. Sudan Tribute sources said that they counted 180 dead bodies outside the presidential compound. The official number has not been announced, but inflow of the victims of the shooting grew so large that a nearby military hospital ran out of beds.

"We did not sleep the whole of yesterday [Friday] night. We received more [than] 58 soldiers with gunshot wounds by around 8:00pm yesterday evening and received 30 others this morning. We have now run out of beds,” one of the military medical officers at the SPLA military hospital told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.

Due to the shortage the rest of the wounded were taken to Juba Teaching Hospital which according to another source of the newspaper received 42 victims.

"The number of casualties is over 150 killed," said Roman Nyarji, a spokesman for rebel leader turned Vice President Riek Machar.

"We are expecting a bigger number of casualties because the two units of the presidential guard were all engaged yesterday," he added referring to bodyguard units of Machar and his rival President Salva Kiir.

The violence in South Sudan comes just months after President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and rebel leader Riek Machar, a Nuer, formed a new power-sharing transitional government, under a deal to end two years' of civil war.

South Sudan spiraled into civil war at the end of 2013 after President Salva Kiir sacked his deputy Riek Machar. Thousands have been killed and millions driven from their homes during the conflict that began barely two years after the oil-rich state’s independence from neighboring Sudan in 2011.

On Saturday the UN Security Council “voiced concern” over the recent clashes, stating that the warring parties are not “being serious” about observing the truce. According to TASS, the UNSC urged the parties "to resolve differences in a spirit of cooperation" to avoid further bloodshed.

Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement that it was "deeply alarmed” by the violence.

"Children and their families in South Sudan have suffered enough from violence, displacement and killings in this brutal conflict. It is time that peace becomes more than agreements on paper, but a reality for those who are most vulnerable," said the UNICEF regional director for eastern and southern Africa, Leila Pakkala.