January 3, 2013 (RUMBEK) - The commissioner of Rumbek East County in South Sudan’s Lakes State, David Marial Gumke, said Thursday that his county celebrated Christmas and New Year without any sign of violence, unlike some previous years.
Thousands of people gathered at the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) in Akot, the county’s headquarters to celebrate the Christian holiday.
"We had a wonderful celebration in this year. There is no violence or misunderstanding among the citizens of Rumbek East county.” Marial told Sudan Tribune.
Wulu County, located south of Rumbek town, the capital of Lakes state, also reported that the celebrations for the Christmas and New Year ended peacefully without any report of violence, according to Commissioner Ezekiel Thiang Mangar.
The peaceful holiday period was marred, however, on New Year’s Day in Cueibet County’s Malou-pec area by an isolated attempted cattle raid, in which gunfire was exchanged between armed cattle herders and attackers. Local authorities allege the attackers came from neighbouring Tonj South County of Warrap State.
The gunfight on Tuesday did not escalate into any wider insecurity, according to local authorities.
The festive period also passed peacefully in Rumbek North (Maper) County, located in the northern part of Rumbek, the capital of Lakes State, but locals say they still fear cattle raids from neighbouring Unity State may continue in the New Year.
The greater Yirol Counties, comprising of Awerial, Yirol West and Yirol East, celebrated their Christmas and New Year peacefully, with citizens appealing to the state government to improve roads, health facilities and security along borders with neighbouring states in order to try and stop the scourge of cattle raiding and the cycle of violence in perpetuates.
Lakes State government deployed extra security forces ahead the celebration to try and protect the population.
GOVERNOR’S NEW YEAR MESSAGE
The Governor of Lakes State, Chol Tong Mayay, in his New Year message broadcast on state media on Tuesday, called upon citizens to put more effort into maintaining peace.
The austerity measures being undertaken by the Republic of South Sudan were a setback to the new nation’s development, the Governor said. For almost a year, the South Sudanese government has been deprived of 98% of its revenue due an oil transit fee dispute with neighbouring Sudan.
An agreement was signed in September, but Khartoum has insisted that border security issues be resolved before oil exports, from landlocked South Sudan, can pass through its territory.
Governor Mayany urged citizens in the eight counties of South Sudan’s most central state to show strength by coping with during this period of financial austerity.
However, he said that food imports needed to be increased to cover the gap caused by inadequate rainfall, which triggered a shortfall in the amount of grain produced in the Lakes State. In other states in South Sudan flooding has destroyed many crops.
The Governor added: "The purpose of celebrating a New Year is not for the sake of celebrating it. but, is is that we should have a new outlook to issues related to our vision and mission, aims and objectives, and map out a new direction; new approach and new understanding to achieve our goal of building a new nation. This is a per-requisite to each and everyone to make his/her New Year resolutions a reality.”
Last year had been difficult for the people of South Sudan, he said, due to the border dispute with Sudan and the shutdown of oil production.
“We have undergone some difficult circumstances as a nation among them was aggression from Sudan at Pan-thou [Heglig] and other border areas and the shutdown of oil production, which resulted to austerity measures that you are experiencing today”.
The two nations almost returned to all-out war in April last year when South Sudan occupied Heglig in response to clashes along the Unity State border.
Lakes State, despite not sharing an international border, has also suffered from incidents of insecurity with raids and counter raids between communities and neighbouring states related to cattle rustling and revenge attacks.
But the Governor asked citizens to reject such practices and instead "apply a spirit of comradeship, patriotism, peace, love and harmony to breach the gap of humanity that has been lost over the years."