Tensions rose high in South Sudan’s capital on Saturday following a move by government troops to surround the home of former military chief of staff Paul Malong.
The troops are reported to have been sent by President Salva Kiir, to disarm Malong’s bodyguards.
AP news agency reports the order to have said that any resistance by the former army chief “should be met with reasonable force.”
It also reports Malong’s wife Lucy Ayak Malek to say that the bodyguars refused to handover arms and the situation got worse.
“I think things will escalate if the president doesn’t act quickly,” Malek is quoted to have said by telephone.
Hundreds of soldiers had been deployed.
It was not immediately clear what led to the president’s order, which also prevents any visitors to Malong’s home. Acting army spokesperson Colonel Santo Domic Chol said whatever was taking place was “political.”
Malong, who has been under house arrest, was fired in May and had been one of Kiir’s closest allies. He was accused of directing last year’s fighting in Juba that killed hundreds. A former governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, he also has been accused of controlling an ethnic militia that numbers in the thousands.
Shortly after his firing, Malong said that he would not take up arms against the government of the East African nation, saying “we don’t fight a meaningless war.”
South Sudan has been rocked by a civil war for four years, killing thousands and forcing millions others to flee their homes.
The war was sparked by President Kiir’s accusations that his then deputy Riek Machar was plotting a coup against his government. Machar denied the accusations but then went on to mobilize a rebel force to fight the government.
The mass displacements in the country prompted the United Nations earlier this year to rank it as Africa’s biggest refugee crisis, and third worldwide after Syria and Afghanistan.
Regional leaders and the international community have been piling pressure on the warring factions to engage in dialogue to resolve the crisis.