September 27, 2013 (RUMBEK) - Thousand of students from Pankar Boys primary school in Lakes state’s Yirol West county on Friday violently demonstrated in protest against authorities.
- Part of the destroyed office of the Yirol West county commissioner in South Sudan’s Lakes state. Sept. 27, 2013 (ST)
The demonstration erupted after David Deng Athorbei, the lawmaker representing the county in the national assembly was prevented from addressing students and parents at a function organised by the school.
According to a member of the event’s organising committee who requested anonymity the preparation for the student party began on September 17 with the aim of enlightening students on their academic future and brief highlight on current political situation.
The school management, he said sent invitations to the whole of greater Yirol to attend the party, with David Deng Athorbei invited as a guest of honor.
A student from Pankar Boys primary school said the students were disappointed with the actions of the Lakes state government, which he accused of the mistreating the community.
He accused the government of "using military tactics" against civilians. "Today is a red line, someone like David Deng Athorbei must to be given respect.”
- Yirol West County commissioner office in Lakes state, South Sudan. Sept. 27, 2013 (ST)
After several phone calls between MP David Deng Athorbei and Yirol West County commissioner Colonel Majak Ruei, over the matter of Deng’s planned address, Majak’s told Deng not to attend the event.
After the order, Deng declined to attend the school ceremony and decided to leave Yirol West County for Juba.
“I don’t need problem to happen in Yirol neither in Lakes state because of me, I will travel back to Juba and see what step to take” Athorbei told Sudan Tribune over the phone.
The student’s reaction to Athorbei leaving Yirol West county without speaking to them by throwing stones at the commissioner’s office. Office furniture and office equipment was destroyed, including the a solar panel generator.
After shots were fired by the security forces the students returned to the school. No students were wounded or arrested.
Residents in town have expressed displeasure that Athorbei left the county without speaking to the people that he represents at the national parliament in Juba.
Since a new caretaker governor was appointed to replace the elected governor of the troubled central state, many residents have accused the government of acting in a an undemocratic way to silence descent.
“Deng Athorbei is political legend of the state and the country as well. He is a citizen of the state and the country too. Why [was he] not allowed to express his views to his countrymen?" a resident, who request anonymity, said.
"We believe that every citizen is allowed to talk or what we may call freedom of speech and expression which the national constitution supports. We should be transparent and logical in politics because leadership is different from power.”
One of the protesters say that the protest was not only about the MP’s early return to the capital but also about other issues the students have with the commissioner.
He warned that the unrest could spread to other areas of Lakes state if president Salva Kiir continues to supporting Maj-Gen Matur Chuol Dhuol, who he appointed as caretaker governor in January.
On Thursday Kiir ended a two-day trip Lakes state, his first for over three and a half years.
Activists and youth leaders had planned to stage a peaceful demonstration in front of president to expressed their unhappiness with current situation in Lakes state but security agents managed to thwart their attempts.
South Sudan’s National Intelligent Security Services (NISS) are reported to have arrested some of the activists and are holding them in a secret prison in Rumbek Central county.
One of the activists, in a text message to Sudan Tribune, cited unlawful detention of intellectual youth in the state allegedly by the governor and illegal stay in office contrary to the constitution, among others as some of the reasons for the protest.
"Major general Matur [governor] has to be removed and former Governor democratically elected governor has to be reinstated back as required by law", partly read the text.
On September 20, a leading journalist from Lakes state, Manyang Mayom Meen sent a letter to president Kiir expressing his alarm at the measures used to try and restore security to Lakes state.
Mayom, who won an international human rights award in 2010, had previously written to Kiir in March calling on the president to ask the security services to stop the ill-treatment of civilians in Lakes state.