East Africa: RwandAir Suspends Flights to Juba



National carrier RwandAir has suspended flights to and from South Sudan capital Juba.
The decision, announced yesterday, follows fresh infighting in Juba pitting President Salva Kiir's forces against soldiers loyal to his deputy and nemesis Riek Machar.
According to a statement circulated by the carrier on its social media platforms, they will continue to monitor the situation before any further action is taken.
"We will closely monitor the situation and keep you informed of our flights operations to and from Juba. We are informing and assisting all concerned passengers through the contacts provided in their bookings," reads the statement.
RwandAir has been operating four weekly flights to Juba.
Speaking to The New Times, Patrick Manzi, the senior manager for promotions and head of marketing at RwandAir, said all airlines have suspended flights to Juba due to the escalating tension, citing Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.
According to Manzi, the most viable alternative for Rwandans who want to flee the conflict is by road.
Reports indicate that gun battles broke out across Juba on the eve of the country's fifth independence anniversary, July 9.
Fighting on Friday was reported outside the presidential palace as President Kiir was meeting with first vice-president Machar.
President Kiir and Machar both called for calm.
Rwandans safe
Meanwhile, Rwandans in Juba are safe despite the heavy fighting that erupted between rival forces on Friday, continuing through the weekend.
The fighting later spread across the capital Juba and by yesterday, hundreds of people had reportedly been killed, with the spokesperson for Machar declaring that the two camps "are back to war."
There are nearly 700 Rwandan civilians living in Juba and engaged in various businesses; mainly trading in different products, according to John Bosco Kalisa, chairperson of the Rwandan Community in South Sudan.
Many other Rwandans in professional services work with UN agencies and other government agencies.
Kalisa said: "Rwandans are very safe and are being protected by our army in Juba and, as the Chairman of the Rwandan Community; I have ensured and checked that everyone is safe."
"There is no business activity being undertaken now as shops and restaurants are closed. Of course this has both economic and social implications on the welfare of the people which can escalate if the fighting is not contained."
Media reports indicate that people, worried for their safety, stayed indoors over the weekend and the streets were almost deserted except for soldiers.
The latest infighting is being compared to the skirmish between soldiers in Juba on December 15, 2013, that led to the civil war in which thousands of people were killed and others displaced.
The latest fighting is the first major outbreak of violence in Juba since Machar returned to the capital in April after his re-appointment as vice-president following protracted negotiations since the 2013 fallout.
Kalisa, who was speaking to The New Times from central Juba yesterday, explained that members of the Rwandan community in South Sudan were spread out in different places but being monitored by a United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) contingent led by Lt Col John Ndengeyinka "whom we communicate with every minute."
Although he is convinced about Rwandans' wellbeing, Kalisa admitted that he could not ably guarantee the safety of their properties and merchandise if the situation worsens.
"There is no safety guarantee of their property; what we ensure is protecting their lives. That comes first. When people are safe, they can make money and accumulate wealth anytime," he said.
"What I can say is that Rwandans are more organised, well-coordinated and do communicate with each other more frequently."
On Friday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the fighting in Juba represented a "new betrayal of the people of South Sudan, who have suffered from unfathomable atrocities since December 2013."

East Africa: RwandAir Suspends Flights to Juba East Africa: RwandAir Suspends Flights to Juba Reviewed by on 1:48:00 AM Rating: 5

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