The situation in Juba had been extremely tense for months. On Thursday July 7th, a clash erupted between government army (Sudan People's Liberation Army also known as SPLA) and opposition (IO) soldiers. On Friday, at 17h30 loud bursts and heavy shooting broke the silence.
At the time of the occurrence, Marnix was living in Juba and working for Nonviolent Peaceforce. This is his story.
“On Sunday morning at around 8h00, all hell broke loose. The loud noise of heavy fighting initially came from the edge of town, but quickly spread to the rest of the city. I spent the entire day in the 'hibernation room' with my colleagues and saw the fear in some of their eyes as we lay on the ground. There's nothing special about this room; it only distincts itself from other rooms because it stores water and food to survive for a while.
We heard tanks moving through the streets of our neighbourhood in which heavy clashes were fought. Gunships (these are military aircrafts armed with heavy guns) were circling around town in the early afternoon. That was the most intense period. Heavy battles were fought on the streets next to our guesthouse. The floor on which we were lying trembled and explosions felt to strike right next to us. Juba had turned into a war zone and we were caught in the middle.
We all wore our organisation’s uniforms, held our 'quick-run bags' (a small backpack with all important documents, some food and medicines to survive a few days) close and were ready to move whenever necessary. I was fairly calm, but could not really comprehend what was happening. War is not something one can comprehend, but I guess you can get used to it.
Gunshots continued to be heard throughout the night. Many of us slept in the same room. Everyone was exhausted.
On Monday the shooting continued. And the internet that oddly enough, never disconnected, was somewhat comforting. We were in touch with other organisations, updated each other about what we heard, what was going on and discussed an evacuation plan. And at a more personal basis, I greatly appreciated being able to follow the news on Twitter and being in contact with my friends and family. My phone helped to distract my attention a little bit.”
On Monday evening, after five days of heavy fighting, both parties agreed on a ceasefire. Marnix de Witte was evacuated on a small charter plane the following day. At the time of his evacuation, he was working for Nonviolent Peaceforce as a Programme Development Officer. Shortly after his arrival in the Netherlands he started working for Free Press Unlimited as Grants Manager for South Sudan.