First Vice President, Riek Machar, accompanied by SPLA-IO officers, Juba,
Media report earlier suggested that Machar, whose many of his bodyguards were killed during the Friday clash, was instead escorted to his residential area by forces from a rival army commanded by President Kiir.
James Gatdet Dak, the press secretary of the first deputy who also commands a separate army in South Sudan, said the matter was exaggerated.
“No, this is not true. It is twisted and exaggerated. He [Machar] was escorted by his forces of the SPLA-IO. Yes, of course there were officers of the Military Intelligence from the SPLA who took part in the escort up to Gudele area,” Dak clarified.
He said the purpose of involving the SPLA personnel in the escort of the First Vice President was to avoid further misunderstandings which previously occurred on Gudele road between the rival forces.
“The reason was for them to have direct communication with their patrol units on the road so as not to try to stop the convoy,” he said.
He commended the SPLA forces loyal to President Kiir for their cooperation after the clashes.
Dak said the road has some deployed SPLA soldiers who sometimes do “illegal searches” and might have clashed again with the escort convoy of the SPLA-IO forces who accompanied the First Vice President.
Earlier reports alleged that the SPLA forces were the ones who escorted Machar in a move seen to be a “humiliation” that they spared his life at will.
But Dak said SPLA-IO forces were the ones in charge of their leader’s protection as he was returning home from J1.
Fighting erupted on Friday outside the Presidential Palace while leaders of the South Sudanese presidency were in a meeting in the Palace.
About 37 of the SPLA-IO soldiers loyal to first deputy president, Machar, and more than 90 of the SPLA soldiers loyal to President Kiir were reportedly killed during the clash.
About 25 civilians were reportedly among the victims, according to Juba Teaching Hospital officials, bringing the total number killed to about 150.
The bodyguards of the two leaders who were inside the palace did not fight, owing to concerns that the two top leaders’ lives would have been put to direct risk.