NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 22 – South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar has denied claims he carried a gun to the presidential palace in Juba against protocol, as claimed by President Salva Kiir.
Machar’s Spokesman James Gatdet told Capital FM News on Friday that the VP is always protected by bodyguards and does not need to carry a weapon.
“Dr Machar’s bodyguards were with him inside the palace when the fighting erupted outside the palace. So there was no need for him to carry to carry a pistol and he did not carry a pistol,” Gatdet insisted.
Kiir had said in an interview with CCTV Africa that Machar was carrying a firearm on the day fighting erupted outside the palace leaving 272 people – mostly soldiers dead – and questioned his motive.
But Machar’s spokesman responded saying: “First Vice President Dr Riek Machar is civilian oriented. He doesn’t carry a pistol because he depends on his bodyguards for protection.”
Kiir had said he personally shielded Machar from harm when fighting started and gave him safe passage from the palace afterwards.
But Machar blames Kiir for the violence, which threatens South Sudan’s fragile peace agreement.
“Even the fighting itself was started when Kiir’s forces used an ambulance siren as a signal to their forces to start shooting Dr Riek Machar’s bodyguards who were outside the palace fence,” Gatdet charged.
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.