January 30, 2014 (RUMBEK) - Officials in South Sudan’s Lakes state on Thursday appealed to citizens in its Yirol West county to assist the country’s army (SPLA) battling rebellions in neighbouring states for six-weeks, with food items.
- A wounded Sudan Peoples Liberation Army soldiers lies on the ground April 21, 2012 (ANP/AFP)
At a meeting held in Yirol West, the caretaker governor, Maj-Gen Matur Chut Dhuol, reportedly instructed that each family in the county contributes a tin of both groundnuts and sorghum.
Representatives from only three of Yirol West’s seven payams [districts] reportedly attended the meeting. These included Abang, Geng-geng and Yirol town payams.
A payam administrator, who requested anonymity, said the meeting was not well organised, but added that officials warned of serious consequences, if citizens declined to avail the army food.
"We believed instructions were coming out from governor Matur Chut Dhuol. What happened was that Yirol West county executive director Macuor Anyith appeared in front of us with papers and ordering us to speed up with implementation of order," said a source who attended the meeting.
The new directive has since caused fresh tension between Dhuol and Yirol West residents who complained of poor harvests over the year, due to absence of rain.
Peter Ijong, a native of Lakes state, said that the policy of asking local populations to provide food for the army was outdated and had not been practiced since the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended decades of civil was between the SPLA and the Sudanese government.
South Sudan became independent in 2011, but the new nation has since mid-December last year been struggling to cope with a large-scale rebellion led by its former vice-president Riek Machar against president Salva Kiir’s leadership.
"Where is governor Matur getting those orders from? How can we mobilise food to army?" Ijong asked, pointing out that the army has its own supplies from the capital Juba.
"I did not get a good harvest because there was rain problem [...] I received more than 10 people who fled conflict in Jonglei and I ate the little I have with them," he added.
Ijong further said he was now receiving help from people displaced from neighbouring Jonglei "because they get the food from humanitarians".
"Now where will I get food as a contribution to army?" he asked.
Governor Dhoul has been at odds with many in Lakes state since he was installed a year ago to replace the sacked elected governor Chol Tong Mayay. His critics say he rules the central state with an iron fist.
Thousands of SPLA troops are deployed in Lakes state to quell insecurity in the counties that border Jonglei and Unity states where the fighting has been at its worst.
Authorities also claim say that army deserters from the South Sudan capital are now trying to pass through Lakes state to reach Unity state.
Civil society and activists have repeatedly called for the removal of Dhuol and for elections to be held. South Sudan’s transitional constitution states that a by-election be held within three months, should the president remove a governor.
But Kiir has so far declined to hold an election in Lakes, Jonglei and Unity states, where the democratically-elected governors were removed last year.