January 2, 2013 (BOR) – Leaders of Jonglei State’s Bor County have dismissed suggestions that gunmen attacking their villages are loyal to a rebel leader operating in neighbouring Pibor County, asserting that the raids are simply a result of the number of arms in the hands of the Murle tribe, who live in Pibor.
- Kuot Chol who escaped from abductors after being held for one hour, speaks to Bor County leaders in Gak, Kolnyang district on Wednesday 2 January 2013 (ST)
Bor County commissioner Agot Alier Leek, speaking to reporters at the scene of the New Year’s Day attack in Makuach Payam [district] headquarters to the east of Jonglei’s capital Bor on Wednesday, said the only way to attain peace in Jonglei is to adopt a tough approach to armed civilians.
“Those who talk [about] disarmament carried out in Pibor County are misleading", said commissioner Agot, flanked by Jonglei State members of parliament and local administrators.
The commissioner, who was speaking just 400 meters north of where three people were killed on Tuesday said that he did not believe "this story" that all the attacks in Jonglei are carried out by members of a rebel group led by David Yau Yau who have been fighting the South Sudanese army (SPLA) since April last year.
The rebel leader had accepted an amnesty in 2011, having originally taken up arms in 2010 after failing to win a seat representing Pibor County in the Jonglei parliament.
“Yau Yau is just a cover where some civilians are hiding. These are armed civilians that are still heavily armed in Pibor county. I would call on the government of South Sudan and the SPLA to carry out a forceful disarmament to this population if peace is to reign here in this region,” Agot said.
Over the Christmas period in 2011 around 6,000 armed Luo Nuer men, as well some members of the Dinka Bor community, entered Pibor County in an attempt to recapture stolen cattle and people who had been abducted in previous Murle raids.
Over 100,000 people were affected by the incident and reprisal attacks throughout January and February in 2012. In March, South Sudan launched a disarmament process across the state.
But some groups, especially in Pibor avoided the South Sudanese military and police and kept their weapons. A peace deal was signed in May between the six main ethnic groups. However, not all armed groups attended and raids and abductions have continued despite Governor Kuol Manynag Juuk claiming that 2012 was more peaceful than 2011.
- Samuel Ayuen, a youth representative in Jonglei State’s Bor County, addresses a gathering attended by Bor Commissioner Agot Alier Leek in Makuach district on Wednesday 2 January 2013 (ST)
Benjamin Malek Alier MP, who represents north Bor County at South Sudan’s national parliament in Juba, said the New Year’s Day attack is “unfortunate” considering the efforts put into the disarmament campaign in 2012.
The raid showed that the government was failing to protect civilians in Bor County, according to the MP. “Our people have been disarmed and are not being protected,” said Malek.
Malek also questioned whether Yau Yau’s rebellion could be blamed for all of Jonglei’s security problems.
“What is the objectives of Yau Yau? If Yau Yau is against the government of South Sudan, why are they attacking civilians? There is no different between Yau Yau and Murle raiders,” he added.
Malek said Bor MPs are planning to “sue the government” for disarming civilians without providing them the protection they were promised during the disarmament and peace process.
“Disarmament should be uniform. If it is non-uniform, it is better to leave the population with their arms so that they protect themselves,” said Malek.
Makuach district’s civil administrator, Philip Mabil Duot, says he asked the leaders of South Sudanese forces who visited the center on Wednesday to send a force to retrieve the 1,503 stolen cattle. He claimed that the raiders were returning to Pibor County.
If the army and police did not pursue the raiders "that will not be acceptable,” he said without giving details on what other steps he could to take.
Four soldiers and some fifteen civilians tried to pursue the cattle raiders but returned to Makuach when they realised that the raiders outnumbered them, witnesses told Sudan Tribune.
Bor County youth leaders say the government’s promise to dislodge rebels in Pibor and disarm civilians during the coming dry season will be given time but warned that should the army continue to fail to protect them they will consider rearming themselves.