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South Sudan denies rumours of leader’s death

 

Juba / AFP

South Sudan’s government was on Wednesday forced to deny President Salva Kiir had died, following days of rumours over his health that have heightened tensions in the capital Juba.
“This is a mere lie, there is nothing as such, Salva Kiir has not even been sick,” Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth told journalists in Juba, slamming “wild rumours” he said aimed to divide the people of South Sudan.
The rumours have been doing the rounds on Twitter, and even spread as far as Uganda where Kiir, 65, was reported to have fled for medical treatment.
Residents of Juba reported a higher than usual presence of soldiers on the streets, as the rumours coincided with mounting concerns over an uptick in violence in the troubled nation in recent weeks.
“We are scared of the situation. You cannot know what is exactly happening but (there are) rumours that the president has died. Well, it is said fighting may break out and this is why I am scared,” said Moses Modi, a resident of Juba who was staying home over security fears.
Another Juba resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, reported that some schools had sent pupils back home.
“There are soldiers deployed along the road. Mainly the roads around the ministries and the State House … I am at work but leaving (for) home now. Because the tension is high,” she added.
South Sudan, which gained independence in July 2011, descended into war just two and a half years later when Kiir in December 2013 accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.
Numerous attempts to shore up a fragile truce failed, and in a major setback to peace efforts, fierce clashes erupted in Juba on July 8 this year between Kiir’s guards and troops loyal to Machar.

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