Following the outbreak last Friday of heavy fighting in South Sudan’s capital Juba, the German Government completed the evacuation of German nationals from the country on Wednesday evening (13 July). The staff of the German Embassy were on the last Bundeswehr evacuation flight and the Embassy in Juba is now temporarily closed. The evacuation operation was coordinated by the German Government’s crisis unit at the Federal Foreign Office.
Around 200 people evacuated to Uganda
With the landing of the last of four Transall flights in Entebbe in Uganda, the German Government completed the evacuation of German nationals from South Sudan, which has been rocked by armed conflict, on Wednesday evening (13 July).
It was possible to evacuate around 50 passengers on each flight. In addition to German nationals, citizens from other European and non-European countries were flown out. Three injured soldiers from the UN mission UNMISS also left the country on the Bundeswehr aircraft.
The German evacuees are now receiving consular assistance from the German Embassy in Uganda’s capital Kampala, which is helping them to travel home to Germany or other countries.
German Embassy in Juba temporarily closed
The staff of the German Embassy left the country on the last flight and the Embassy in Juba is now temporarily closed.
Shortly before the fifth anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, severe armed clashes broke out last Friday ‑ in the capital Juba the official armed forces and former rebel groups are battling each other and there have also been reports of armed conflict in other parts of the country. A ceasefire was announced on 11 July but to date it has not been upheld.
Ambassador Lehne: “Evacuation was the only option”
The German Ambassador in Juba, Johannes Lehne, was also evacuated on Wednesday. Before he left the capital, he commented on the situation in South Sudan as follows: “There were intensive armed clashes in the streets directly in front of the homes of many staff members and aid workers. [...] After four days and nights of heavy fighting, which we were forced to follow at close vicinity, evacuation was the only option.”
The last scheduled flights left the airport, which subsequently came under attack, last Saturday.
After the outbreak of fighting last Friday, the mission in Juba immediately switched to crisis mode and worked around the clock to locate the remaining Germans in the country and to prepare their evacuation. The planning was coordinated in the Federal Foreign Office Crisis Response Centre in Berlin. Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier prepared the evacuation at the diplomatic level in a telephone conversation with his counterpart in South Sudan.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier: “Terrible circle of violence and counter-violence”
Steinmeier commented on these events at the weekend: “It is worrying to see that, even after five years of independence, South Sudan is still the stage for outbreaks of brutal violence and that the peace process is still in jeopardy.”
Regarding the recurring brutal hostilities between the supporters of President Kiir and Vice-President Machar, Steinmeier spoke of a terrible “cycle of violence and counter-violence”. It was now vital that the President and Vice-President “call their supporters to order”. He went on to say that people in South Sudan should not be robbed of their last hope of a better future.