, JUBA, July 24, 2013 (AFP) – Heavily armed South Sudanese security forces guarded key government institutions in the capital Juba Wednesday as radio broadcasts called for calm after the president suspended his cabinet and his main political rival.
Those removed by President Salva Kiir include two of the country’s most influential leaders his rival vice-president Riek Machar Machar and Pagan Amum, the secretary general of the ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
The sackings have sparked concern over potential instability in the fledgling nation, which is awash with guns, riven by ethnic rivalries and still reeling from decades of war.
“We are asking our citizens, please do your duty and go to work,” said Barnaba Marial Benjamin, who until his suspension late Tuesday was the information minister and government spokesman.
All 29 ministers were suspended as well as their deputies, in addition to 17 police brigadiers.
“Give the president a chance to form his government he has already empowered the technocrats to see the day to day running of the administration,” Benjamin said in a broadcast on the UN supported Radio Miraya.
Troops and armed police blocked several key roads in Juba, with a heavy deployment at the government ministry complex, but the city was reported calm, army spokesman Philip Aguer said.
“This is routine work, they are being deployed to protect the ministries,” Aguer told AFP.
Many of the ministers were key figures in the rebel SPLM or its armed wing that fought a brutal 1983-2005 war against the government in Khartoum, which led to a 2011 referendum in which South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to split from the north.