October 6, 2013 (RUMBEK) - The swearing in ceremony of executive members of a student union in South Sudan’s Lakes state has been blocked by the caretaker military caretaker Governor Maj-Gen Matur Chuot Dhuol.
The Lakes State University Students Union (LLUSU) event had been due to take place at Akon Buoi hall, located next to Rumbek Central county commissioner’s office.
It is alleged that Governor Dhuol banned the union meeting as he feared it would result in a fresh protest against his leadership.
The occasion was being organised by students studying at one of South Sudan’s five state universities or abroad. Marial Dut, the secretary general of the union, which was established in 2011, said that his organisation worked to bring peace and harmony in Lakes State and to address the complex issues affecting students.
Dut explained that: “In May we did an election very democratically. We elected our leaders and then we raised some funds for swear in of our new executive members. Our union has no support from anywhere.”
Governor Dhuol had been at odds with Lakes state’s youth since his appointment by South Sudan president Salva Kiir Mayardit in January as a replacement to the elected governor Chol Tong Mayay.
Mayay is alleged to have been removed due his failure to address security issues including cattle raids and fighting within ethnic groups. Since coming to power in January Dhuol has introduced controversial security measures, including detaining large numbers young men at secret military prisons and banning alcohol.
Dhuol instructed Abraham Mayen Kuc, the Rumbek Central county commissioner to stopped the university students meeting at Akon Buoi Hall but he declined to imposed the order by himself. Kuc instead instructed county executive director to order students to leave the hall as the governor needed to use the hall for an urgent meeting. However, students said that the hall remained unused for the rest of the day.
The union leader said that the date and location of the event had previously been approved by the county authority and invitations had been sent to government officials.
“We hire[d] chairs and sound systems [but] today [the] Governor refuse[d] to talk to us direct. We [have] wasted around 5,000 South Sudanese pounds out of transport and printing of document, invitation, and announcement on local radio.”
The students union has demanded that the state government pay back the money the union has wasted but the Rumbek Central county commissioner has said he cannot afford to reimburse them and has passed the claim onto the governor.
A student who requested anonymity said: "If they are not ready to pay us back, we will decide for second step that students union must undertake, otherwise we will ask them to be faithful and they should respect us, if not red line will be crossed by state government and unrest situation will immediately rise."
Students explained that there is a lack of trust that the Lakes state government will be able to address the social and political turmoil in the state.
“We were force out, we leave the hall because it is government hall – we know this government is already having differences with us as students. Governor is suspecting us that we are working to [be] organised for protest against his government which [is] not our aim. We invited entire government officials of Lakes state [but the] governor and his executive ignored our invitation”, the student said.