Gunfire rocks Juba Airport

Extensive shooting yesterday afternoon around the Juba International Airport had airline personnel and passengers take cover as and where they could, as gunfire erupted in the vicinity of the airport causing panic and throwing a poor light on aviation safety and security at South Sudan’s only international airport.

Statements issued by South Sudan government organizations speak of a variety of reasons, such as “misunderstandings,” not exactly reassuring for visitors who fly into Juba, to plain and simple “we don’t know what was going on and are investigating.”

Shooting incidents over the past months in Juba were often triggered by soldiers going for long periods without pay and then making a point by causing some level of havoc, although this is the first time that such incidents have moved from the barracks and government installations to the international airport.

No airline was willing to speak up about the incident either, citing fear of repercussions should they be quoted, but one Juba-based source, on condition of anonymity, said: “The way things are going, you can just not be sure who was responsible. It could be rebels inflitrating, it could be disgruntled soldiers over salaries, or even simply criminals who try to steal. For us, we keep our heads down and pray that nothing happens to our passengers and aircraft, because if one is hit, it needs repairing, and they don’t have good facilities for that here.”

Scheduled departures into Juba for tomorrow are continuing, although airlines are said to be heavily relying on advice from their locally-based station managers to determine if it is safe to land and disembark passengers.