NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 21 – South Sudan’s leader Salva Kiir has spoken about the sad events of July 8 when a shootout outside the presidential palace in Juba left 272 people dead, mostly soldiers.
In an interview with CCTV Africa, Kiir told Robert Nagila that he put his own life at risk to protect Vice President Riek Machar when gunfire was heard outside the palace as they held a meeting.
“I was flanked by two of my vice presidents when the shootout broke out. I took my deputies, I told them to relocate from here (the meeting room), they followed me,” he explained that he took them to a safe room where they stayed until the shootout subsided.
It was after he relocated Machar to the safe room within the palace when he discovered that the VP had a gun, contrary to the regulations of carrying firearms to the palace.
Kiir said he could not ascertain if Machar planned to assassinate him or plot a coup.
“Machar was carrying his pistol. You know it is not allowed to come to a meeting with a gun but if somebody comes with it, that means he has an intention of what he should do,” he explained.
“But I cannot predict for him, he did not say it – whether he wanted to assassinate me, or I thought because this is what people who plot the coup against president – this is what they do and you must kill him so that you know he’s not there any longer – whether you survive it or not.”
But was he worried that Machar would harm him after he found him with a gun?
“No, not at all. In the state I was worried about his life. And the officers and men who were around from my headquarters – who were not friendly to him. The eyes that they were looking at him indicated that should I be missing for a minute, I will not find him there alive. But I kept on warning those people once I saw their faces – I would just point with my finger to warn them because that’s not the way we were going,” Kiir said.
“Even if he would have to shoot me, he would have not gone out of this room,” he added.
Kiir said that he held Machar’s arm and led him to his personal car and even gave him his own security to escort him to his house.
“When my car was here, I was just covering Dr Riek with my body, I became his shield. I am the one who opened the door of the car and we all shielded him – should anyone angry release a bullet, that bullet should fall on us first and that meant saving and protecting Machar.”
“I told him go safely. I told him if you reach home, you let me know that you have reached safely – which he did.”
Kiir told CCTV Africa that since July 8, he had not seen Machar though he had invited him for talks.
The world has condemned Kiir and Machar following the violence and urged them to implement the peace agreement to bring to end perennial wars in South Sudan.
Kenya has already evacuated 787 of its citizens from South Sudan.