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Tensions escalating in South Sudan’s capital

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (L) and former military chief of staff Paul Malong (file photo)

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has ordered troops to surround the house of the country’s former military chief of staff, Paul Malong, amid rising political tensions in the country’s capital city.

Media reports said tensions were high in Juba after President Kiir sent troops to Malong’s home to disarm his bodyguards and remove all weapons.

Malong’s wife, Lucy Ayak Malek, said Malong’s bodyguards had refused to hand over their arms and the situation had escalated, with hundreds of soldiers deployed.

Kiir has ordered the troops to exert “reasonable force” if they met any resistance.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Malong, who had been one of Kiir’s closest allies but was fired in May after being accused of commanding military operations in Juba that left hundreds of people dead last year.

Army spokesman Col. Santo Domic Chol said whatever events were taking place now in the capital were “political.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) issued an emergency notification advising UN staff to remain vigilant.

South Sudan has been gripped by conflict since his main deputy and current opposition leader Riek Machar defected in December 2013 over allegations of plotting a coup.

Tens of thousands have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict. Machar was forced into exile in South Africa but forces loyal to him still operate in Pagak and other regions of the world’s youngest country.

The war spread across South Sudan with the collapse of a peace agreement in 2015, leaving many in poverty and despair.

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