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Sunday, October 25, 2020

HOW THE SHERIKAT MASSACRE UNFOLDED-EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

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EYEWITNESS-At about 9:04 am Wednesday morning, I was heading for my morning coffee under a tree when I heard gunshots.  On inquiring what was happening, I was told that fighting has been ongoing in Juba’s Bor Bus Park (Mata Bor is how it’s known in Juba Arabic) in the last 30 or 40 minutes and three people were killed, a Boda Boda rider told me. And people fleeing the park. It’s a ten-minute walk from where I was talking to the Boda Boda rider. So I went to the park, against the current of people fleeing the scene. I never told a brother whom we were preparing to take coffee. I told him to order our coffee as I was checking on “something.”

Bloody Scene

The park was chaotic and people were moving in all directions. One injured man was bleeding, people were on phone as they check on him, reporting to relatives, and others were taking pictures. Everyone was talking and no one seems to be listening.

Dead Body(ies) and Injured Locked up in Shops

In another shop, a blood-stained floor in front of a locked shop were signs of a body (other said two bodies – an old man and a woman) inside. The body(ies) was/were stored temporarily there – away from public view and grieving relatives stood in front of the shop.  

Public Toilet

A public toilet located in east part of the park was said to the ground zero of the fight.  On asking multiple people, I was told that a certain SSPDF Colonel known as Lual-marine, and alleged to be a son of President Kiir, had blocked the entrance to the toilet by erecting structures in a plot of land that include nearby graves. The issue was brought, by the owner of the public toilet, to the attention of SSPDF two months ago but no action was taken. Police was not helpful since one party to the “conflict” was an active army officer. And thus, it took a community dimension to sort out the issue.

The army colonel has bodyguards and drives speeding cars in Sherikat neighborhoods though he is not a full-time resident. On June 2, 2020, there was an exchange of blows – his bodyguards on one side and public toilet owner and his relatives and sympathizers on the other. The fight ended in a stalemate. On June 3, Col. Lual reportedly came early with his heavily armed bodyguards. The bus park is busy in the morning hours with passengers and drivers preparing to travel to Bor.  Parks for cars heading to Nimule, Nesitu, and Kampala, Uganda, are within the same parameters. It’s a busy place.

Shots rang out from the direction of the public toilet and people started running. It was not clear – from all the witnesses who first started the fight. But bodyguards allegedly sprayed the crowded bus park with live bullets. A woman was attending to her cuisine of meat and okra. A bullet landed on her back, ripping through her body. An old man was taking his morning coffee and a bullet landed on his chest. Both died instantly. Several others were hit as bullets rained on the passengers and drivers.

Graphic photos taken by witnesses show bloody bodies or injured people. By 09:30 am, when I reached the scene all injured or dead people were taken but the old man’s body was kept in a shop, and another body of a woman (though I didn’t see the bodies because the shop was locked).  Another injured person was in another shop. Relatives took him to a clinic by 09:45 am.

Protests

On the road, angry protesters were barricading the roads. One angry protester grabbed a gun from an unsuspecting soldier but his colleagues overpowered him and gave back the gun to the owner. Demonstrators told the drivers to “go back.”  Soon, car wheels were set alight and a thick smoke covered the air.  

For close to five hours, soldiers and police would come but demonstrators charge forward and the soldiers retreated. The soldiers lost ground and demonstrators gained momentum. By 12 noon, demonstrators had reached Juba-Bor road junction, near the Ministry of Telecommunications. As the protesters were heading toward Rajap Police station on the way to Juba Bridge, soldiers and police opened fire. Two people were hit by bullets and one of them later died on the way to hospital.

By 6pm, the road remained blocked.

Facts:

1. The public latrine was built several year ago just behind the park bus and near the graveyard.

2. Lual-marine built his structures near the public toilet and over the graves early in 2020.

3. The matter was brought to the attention of the police and the military but no action was taken.

By a citizen journalist, in Sherikat.

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