July 9, 2012 (PANYAGOOR) - Jonglei State’s Twic East County celebrated the first anniversary of South Sudan’s independence on Monday calling for peace and an end to food security in the area.
- A group of women dancing in the field at Panyagoor celebrating South Sudan’s first anniversary, 9 July 2012
The celebration was marked by hundreds of South Sudanese, including the armed forces, women’s groups, and school children, who marched across the field in Twic East’s main town, Panyagoor.
Addressing the gathering, the commissioner of Twic East County, Dau Akoi Jurkuch assured citizens that South Sudan’s first anniversary of independence is coupled with the freedom of peaceful coexistence among the people Jonglei.
A Jonglei peace deal was signed in May after clashes between rival cattle herding groups resulted in an humanitarian emergency earlier this year, with over 100,000 people displaced.
“Freedom is the most important thing we are celebrating today”, said Akoi.
- Commissioner of Twice East County, Dau Akoi, speaking to the rally at Panyagoor, 9 July 2012 (ST)
“In the days of conflict [during the two-decade civil war that led to South Sudan’s independence], we would sleep in this house with fear, but now are enjoying peace”, he continued.
Low food production in recent years can be partly attributed to violence between the Murle, Dinka Bor and Nuer tribes. Cattle raids and retributive attacks killed 888 between December 2011 and February 2012, according to a UN report in June.
Over 100,000 people were displaced by the conflict but the commissioner urged people to return to their fields now that relative security had returned to the area.
“Nothing can come out of nothing but through your sweat”, he said.
Akoi acknowledged the efforts of many in Twic East to resume farming, which he hoped would reduce the community’s dependence on UN relief aid.
“We will not depend on UN aid but on the fruits of our labour”, said Akoi.
Akoi cited a 34 kilometre dike renovation, a survey of Panyagoor town and the construction of a road joining War-Nyiol to Panyagoor, the main town in the area, as some of the area’s achievements since July 9 last year.
He promised that more development projects were underway.
- From the left Brig. General Atem Manyok, Rebecca Nyandeng Garang, with her right hands raised by a chief, Koch Deng Koch, (Maroldit), The commissioner of Twic East County, Dau Akoi, after being amazed by one of the artists, Nyan-paleu at Panyagoor, 9 July 2012 (ST)
The commissioner also said he appreciated the intellectuals and politicians who had come home to show ordinary people the importance of agriculture by involving themselves in farming. He cited, Rebecca Nyandeng, the wife of the late John Garang, a former Vice President of Sudan and leader of southern rebels - the SPLM/A - for two decades of civil war, as an example of this.
Garang died in a helicopter crash just months after signing a landmark peace deal with the Khartoum government that granted South Sudan the right to secede from the rest of Sudan last year.
Despite partition the two Sudan’s have many issues to resolve and fought a brief border war in April this year over a contested area.
Commissioner Akoi warned that the war between South and North is not over, urging the people in his county to contribute bulls to support the army. He ordered each elected chief to report to him within seven days with a bull from his area.
Both nations launched nation-wide mobilisation campaigns after the conflict started.
A group of women made the celebrators break into uncontrollable laughter when they appeared in their traditional dress.
A young man praised his bull, and spoke about the freedom they are enjoying with their cattle after the signing of the state peace deal in May. The deal followed a disarmament campaign aiming to curb the violence at the start of the year.
- Manyiel Thon Diing, a young man from Jonglei State, praising his bull at the Panyagoor celebrations of South Sudan’s independence, 9 July 2012 (ST)
The youth leader of Twice East, Awai Piok Awai, asked the chiefs and Twic Communities to reduce to the sky rocketing bride prices, which are traditionally paid in cows in many parts of South Sudan.
There are fears that increasing bride prices are one of the causes of cattle raiding in South Sudan. Many young men are having to marry over the age of 30, which is above traditional marrying age.
“Not everybody is rich" he said, pointing out that those "whose parents died during the war and those who are not educated will not afford 100,000 SSP ($22,600) and the some hundreds of cows to marry a lady”.
- Awai Piok Deng, the youth leader of Twic East adddressing the people at the independence rally at Panyagoor, Jonglei State, South Sudan, 9 July 2012 (ST)
It is believed that most raiding activities in Jonglei are caused by youth who want to get rich quickly to marry their fiances.
Women’s leaders in Twic East County asked the government to improve primary and secondary education.
School children from Wangulei primary school in Nyuak Payam said in a poem their that forced marriage should be stopped to allow girls to complete their education.
A senior chief of Kongoor Payam [district], denied that bride prices were too high arguing that they had gone up in line with the level of education achieved by the in the area girls.
“Our daughters are now educated, so they have a higher value than uneducated ones. But it is not a must. If the lady loves you to a certain extent, OK”, said Thon Diing, without completing his statement.
Low payment for the chiefs and the undefined areas of their jurisdiction were some of the complaints lodged by Twic East’s chiefs during the celebration.
Diing urged the government to organise a workshop to provide orientation to the newly elected chiefs of Twic East County and educate them on their areas of jurisdiction.
“Most of the cases that are meant to be handled by the chiefs are now being handled by the government judges”.
Another chief, Koch Deng Koch, the former SPLA officer, also said that confusion over the areas of jurisdiction was high, urging the government to find a swift solution.