August 15, 2013 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese army (SPLA) pledged on Thursday to prosecute culprits involved in alleged human rights abuses in Jonglei, according to the newly-appointed defence minister.
- Defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk (ST)
Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk said an investigation was underway into allegations that soldiers were involved in committing crimes in Jonglei, adding that some had already been arrested.
He stressed the army’s mandate is to uphold the constitution and protect rights and properties of citizens from external aggression.
“This must be ensured so that professionalism is not compromised. Investigation to identify and establish facts about allegations that some soldiers were involved in committing crimes in some areas in Jonglei are continuing. If it is found that there were soldiers involved, they will be prosecuted”, he said.
Juuk was speaking at a function at Bilpam, the SPLA’s general headquarters on the outskirts of Juba town.
He commended his predecessors for laying the foundations for the establishment of the defence and veteran affairs ministry.
Prior to his ministerial appointment, Juuk was the serving governor of Jonglei State, where thousands of lives have been lost in various conflicts, mostly over cattle theft and land disputes between rival ethnic groups.
Clashes between the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes has resulted in the displacement of about 100,000 civilians, while an unknown number of people have been killed.
A disarmament campaign launched by South Sudan president Salva Kiir in March 2012 has also failed to halt ongoing insecurity in the volatile state, as well as the David Yau Yau-led rebellion in Pibor county.
Juuk’s appointment comes following a decree issued by Kiir earlier this month dissolving his entire cabinet.
A conservative former rebel commander and a close political ally of the president, Juuk’s first challenge is how to restructure the army comprising of fighters with varying allegiances.
Juuk has also been tasked with devising a system that will create vertical command and installing procedures observing administrative policies, particularly regular payments for soldiers.
Juuk’s predecessor, General John Kong Nyuon, congratulated the new minister on his appointment and called on the government to provide the necessary support he needs to run the ministry effectively.
A state-wide disarmament campaign launched by Kiir in March 2012 has failed to halt ongoing insecurity in the volatile region, as well as the David Yau Yau-led rebellion in Pibor county.
Meanwhile, US legislators called on the government to redeploy the SPLA commander in areas of Pibor, as well as the relocation of military outposts and garrisons from village centres.
In a letter dated 8 August, lawmakers expressed dismay at the violence in eastern Jonglei, charging that multiple reports indicate that factions of the SPLA have engaged in or facilitated gross human rights violation against civilian populations and have incited ethnic violence.
The letter bears the signature of Edward R. Royce, chairman of the committee on foreign relations; Eliot Engel, ranking member in the committee on foreign affairs; Robert Menendez, chairman of the committee on foreign relations and Bob Corker, a ranking member in the committee on foreign relations.
The lawmakers claim that many humanitarian groups seeking to provide emergency services to communities affected by violence have been denied access by security forces, adding that imposed restrictions have severely hampered the ability of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to fulfil its mandate of protecting civilians in the region.
“Reports of ethnically motivated violence directed against the Murle ethnic group are particularly disturbing. You (the SPLA) fought against a regime that sought to destroy populations based upon their ethnic identity, and to engage in such practices now betrays the spirit in which the country of South Sudan was born and the historical basis for the United States’ support”, the letter addressed to president Kiir reads in part.
The lawmakers called on Kiir to take immediate corrective actions including reassigning the commanding officer in eastern Jonglei and holding accountable those forces presumed to have engaged in violations of human rights and ethnically motivated violence, in order to ensure the country “does not slip into chaos”.
“In the absence of marked improvements in the rule of law, and in the presence of continued violence, we fear South Sudan may be headed toward a longer and entrenched period of instability”, the letter