By Philip Thon Aleu
May 1, 2012 (BOR) – South Sudan’s army (SPLA) said it is considering killing raiders who abduct or murder women and children in Jonglei state as a disarmament campaign in the state concludes and peace initiatives begin.
- chiefs who attended the peace conference in Bor, May 1, 2012
Community leaders are currently meeting in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, as part of efforts to find peacefully settlement to cattle rustling and inter-communal violence in the state.
The commander of the 15,000 strong SPLA disarmament forces in Jonglei, Gen. Kuol Diem Kuol told political and traditional leaders that “this peace conference is the last chance” for restoring peace through dialogue.
“The SPLA will not allow killing of children to continue. SPLA will starting killing raiders if these acts continue,” Gen. Kuol said to ululations from women attending the five day peace, tolerance and reconciliation meeting.
“I want this conference to decide a solution to this or the SPLA will use force against raiders,” Gen. Kuol added.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir appointed a 23-member peace committee in January when inter-communal violence peaked in Jonglei State.
Over 1,000 people died and over 100,000 people were displaced by the conflict in 2011. Cattle raiding, child abduction and indiscriminate killings have characterised the fighting between pastoralist communities in Jonglei state but the casualties have increased due to illegal arms left over from the two-decade Sudanese civil that was ended by a 2005 peace accord.
Jonglei state governor, Kuol Manyang, told the participants that development has been halted in Jonglei “because investors are scared by this violence.” Governor Kuol says he is “ashamed” by the behaviour of his people and urged leaders to reach a peaceful settlement to what he called “criminal acts.”
The latest deadly incident occurred on Monday in Anyidi of Bor county, a day before peace conference commences in Bor. The attack on a car travelling to Pibor county from Bor killed three people.
Gen. Kuol says the extra SPLA forces deployed to the state will remain in Jonglei “as long as there continue to be threat to disarmed communities.”
Expectations are high among the delegates that a peaceful settlement can be found to the crisis but traditional chiefs maintain that the government should arrest suspected criminals or any accord signed on Saturday may come and go like other agreements.
The roundtable meeting, chaired by Archbishop Daniel Deng, gave each group in Jonglei state - including the Murle, Nuer, Jie, Anuak , Kachipo and Dinka Bor - time to present issues causing insecurity, propose solutions and receive reactions from other delegates.
PRAYERS FOR PEACE
As part of opening prayers, Bishop Rajaf Diocese in Central Equartoria State, Enock Tombe, began with a verse from the Bible and asked Jonglei’s criminals to stop their criminal activities and accept peace into their hearts.
The Archbishop asked the conference to present Jonglei’s problems before God so that the people live in peace.
“It is evil plan that make our people to kill themselves. We will ask God to destroy the Satan in us”, said the Deng.
Governor Manyang told the delegates representing the six ethnic groups in Jonglei to join hands and work towards restoring peace in the conflict torn state.
- Kuol Manyang speaking at the conference in South Sudan Hotel in Bor, May 1 2012, ST photo
“In the last 11 months, very many were killed using guns, many children were abducted, and many others were injured. Over 4,000 people died in the conflict”, said Manyang. The UN say that 1,000 were killed in 2011 but dispute the high figures given by some officials of the number of deaths so far this year.
He said Jonglei had held lots of peace conferences since 2006 that had not been productive, including one in Fangak County and Gumuk Payam of Pibor County which had no significant outcome.
Manyang challenged head of families, chiefs and commissioners for failing to end raiding and child abduction in their areas.
- picture of young guy showing the remains of his burnt shop in Duk Padiet, January 2012.ST File.
“If your son brings cattle or a child to your home, why cannot you ask him where he got cattle or a child from? And you chief, what is your role in this? Were you selected so that should keep quite when your people kill others?"
Manyang continued saying “Peace will never come if we don’t respect the others and their properties”.
He urged the people to accept their mistakes so that they can join hands together in peace.
“The life we are in now is bad. There is nobody who will bring peace to our state except you”, he added.
OVER 10,000 ARMS COLLECTED IN JONGLEI
Jonglei’s conflicts are fueled by the illegal arms possessed by civilians causing the president of South Sudan to order a comprehensive disarmament campaign in Jonglei which started in mid February.
- Guns collected from Bor in when disamament, March 2012, ST file
The head of disarmament in Jonglei state, General Kuol Diem Kuol reported during the conference that his forces have collected the guns from all the communities in Jonglei.
He said the army and axillary forces have collected a total of 10,028 forearms including 30 PKM machine guns, 10 RPG7 launchers.
“You cannot use PKM to kill you brother, instead of using it on the national enemy. RPG7 is for destroying tanks and not people”, he advised.
CHALLENGES DURING DISARMAMENT
General Kuol accused some Murle youth of resisting the disarmament by running away from their communities to avoid the army.
- Kuol Dim speaking at Malualchat in Bor, March 2012, ST file
“When SPLA entered Pibor Land, the youth of Murle ran to Dinka, Nuer, Anuak and places and hide in the bushes”, he said.
He said the many youth of Murle had not surrendered their arms.
According to the SPLA’s last report, only 645 arms were collected in Pibor County.
He said the bad roads network is another big challenge in Jonglei as the forces are compelled to move on foot to places to where people are.
Kuol said 52 attacks occurred since the disarmament started in Jonglei. Out of 52 attacks, 51 attacks were carried out by Murle and only one was done by some element in Bor on Murle, according to Kuol.
He said, Murle armed groups had attacked the SPLA seven times in Pibor and conducted 17 attacks on the Dinka Bor counties of Bor, Twic East and Duk, 15 attacks on Akobo and Waat of Uror Counties, 5 times on Jie communities and 7 times on the Anuak and once on themselves when a lorry was attacked killing three and injuring one on Monday April 30.
SPLA CALLS FOR RETURN OF ABDUCTED CHILDREN
General Kuol asked the conference to work hard to bring all the abducted children and women to their families.
He said the SPLA has collected 31 children from the hands of Murle abductors and were returned them to their families. He said SPLA still holds three girls [from Akobo County] who were recently brought from the hands of the criminals and are yet to be handed over to the commissioner of Akobo to reunite them with their families.
Kuol said the Army will continue searching for guns in Jonglei till no more guns are in the hands of civilians. He said that most of the SPLA are now deployed in remote areas to protect the civilians from raids and abductions.