November 2, 2011 (RUMBEK) - South Sudan’s army has begun deploying two battalions to carry out a disarmament campaign in Unity state this week.
- Soldiers from division six of the SPLA, South Sudan’s army, which is tasked with carrying out the disarmament campaign in Unity state. (ST)
Since a 2005 peace deal that led to South Sudan’s independence in July this year, former rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), have been the official army of the region.
Despite hostilities with north Sudan ending six years ago, South Sudan remains insecure, with various rebels groups and local people carrying weapons.
The disarmament campaign in Unity state is the latest in a series of efforts to disarm civilians to reduce crime and cattle raiding.
SPLA Maj Gen Marial Chanuong Yol says his forces, belonging to division six of the military, will focus the disarmament campaign on Mayendit and Panyjiar counties.
He said the process will involve local chiefs, youth leaders, local police and SPLA forces in the area to identify their youth members who have guns and persuade them to surrender their firearms peacefully.
The senior military figure warned the public that the SPLA would not tolerate any the use of force or resistance. However, he said that the SPLA would not use force against civilians.
- Major General Marial Chanuong Yol, whose SPLA force are conducting the disarmament in Unity state (ST)
Chanuong said the the commissioners of Mayendit and Panyjiar had said their counties been cleared of militias so the focus was to disarm the public. As a consequence of over two decades of civil war South Sudan is awash with small arms.
He told the communities that the "army is ready to defend the local population if there are any threats” against them. According to the Maj Gen the main armed groups in the area are cattle raiders.
SPLA forces in neighbouring Warrap state have collected so far more than 3,000 firearms from civilians, in a recent voluntary disarmament campaign, Chanuong said.
Panyjiar county inspector Stephen Puol Dak Lam, said that the public would abide by the orders of local chiefs as well the general instruction of SPLA during the disarmament campaign.
Puol asked his community to speed up handing over firearms to SPLA forces. He confirmed that government will take action against anyone resisting disarmament.
“If there is any resistance the government will take action against that particular area," he said.
Puol further expressed that he hoped his "county will be peaceful," after the young men in the area had been disarmed. "What I know from these youth, if the government will take their arms, there will be no threats again.”
- The SPLA displaying firearms in Rumbek’s Freedom Square from a disarmament campaign in Lakes state. (ST)
According SPLA brigadier general Peter Ruai Chuol, who is in-charge of disarmament in the south of Unity state, 123 weapons has already been collected from Ganyliel payam [district]. Even before SPLA troops arrived in the area a further 89 arms were handed into Panyjiar county headquarters.
Panyjiar county, like many other areas of South Sudan is severely underdeveloped, with poor infrastructure, especially in terms of communication and roads. The community has called upon the government South Sudan to provide health facilities, roads and schools.
This is Unity state’s first disarmament campaign since South Sudan become an independent state on July 9.
Panyjiar and Mayendit counties bordering Lakes and Warrap state who have experienced numerous cattle raiders since the north-south conflict officially ended in 2005.
After South Sudan’s secession cattle raiding has reduced but not disappeared Warrap and Lakes state.
In Unity state rebels groups continue to fight the SPLA and the government. Most recently when the rebel South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) attempted to take Mayom town from the SPLA, resulting in the death of over 85 people.