Rwandans in south sudan have taken refuge at UN Mission offices as clashes between rival soldiers in the capital Juba was easing by press time.
Clashes broke out in Juba on Sunday night in what Salva Kiir, the South Sudanese president,has called “a coup attempt.”
Kiir accused soldiers loyal to his rival, former vice president Riek Machar who was sacked in July, of staging a coup.
“We haven’t talked about evacuation. The situation has not alarmed to call for an emergency evacuation. But if the situation gets worse we will consider evacuating them,” Parfait Gahamanyi, the director-general of the Diaspora Directorate in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said.
At the moment, there are no records of the number of Rwandans living in South Sudan. However, most of them are business people and UN civilian staff.
Following the crisis, Rwanda’s national carrier, RwandAir, and several other regional airlines, suspended flights to Juba. Juba Airport was closed for hours on Monday, and, though re-opened, several airlines refused to lift the suspension, citing security fears.
Rwanda has no embassy in South Sudan. According to Gahamanyi, in a situation that requires using an embassy, Rwanda would consider several alternatives such as Khartoum or Kampala embassies.
“If we need to evacuate Rwandans, we would use our embassy in Khartoum (Sudan) or Kampala (Uganda) but we are yet to consider that option,” said Gahamanyi.
In 2011, during the Libyan conflict, Rwandan nationals who lived, worked or studied in Libya were evacuated in collaboration with Turkey.
Rwanda maintains a peacekeeping contingent made up of both military and police personnel in the oil-rich nation, which has struggled with instability since becoming independent in 2011.
Rwandan peacekeepers aid compatriots
Speaking to The New Times on phone, Gisele Ingabire, who operates a restaurant in Juba, said businesses have been on standstill since Monday and many people have sought refuge at the UN Mission.
“The clashes began in the night when we were in our homes so we managed to flee to the UN bases. About 30 of us came to this base, while many others went to another UN base. Rwandan peacekeepers sheltered us and fed us,” she said.
Ingabire said she had not heard reports of any Rwandan injured or killed in the clashes that have claimed up to 500 lives.
The Juba government said it had crushed the uprising, with President Kiir calling on the public to resume work. By press time, he had called for a dialogue with rivals.
Reports indicated that about 20,000 people have sought refuge at UN facilities in Juba, while some Western countries have closed their embassies and ordered their citizens to leave the country.