March 11, 2014 (JUBA) – The Abialang section of the Ngok Dinka community in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state have filed a petition against the recent decision by authorities to temporarily designate Renk county as it new state capital due to insecurity in Malakal.
- A young woman runs through the street as gunshots ring out a few streets over, in Malakal, Upper Nile state, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. (Photo AP /Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin)
Malakal, about 497km north-east of Juba, remains a rebel-held territory since it was retaken from government forces last month.
Renk country commissioner, in an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune, confirmed receiving the community’s petition, saying the petitioners feared the possible extension of the conflict in to their area.
“There was a peaceful march on Monday. The community came out to reject proposal of the state government which designates Renk town as the temporary state capital. What they stated in their petition is that designation of the area as state capital would extend conflict to the area, because people from different ethnic groups working in the state government would also relocates to Renk,” Guot Akuei said by phone.
“This would in turn create tension and conflict over competition for limited resources, including lands and other utilities,” he added.
The community’s petition, stressed the commissioner, also confirmed claims by opposition forces they were in full control of the oil-rich town of Malakal, despite government’s insistence that it partly controls the Upper Nile capital.
“There should be no misinterpretation of the petition but as the government, we will try our best to explain to our people that the designation of the town is just on temporary arrangement purpose. I know this is difficult decision but the people should also understand that the government to relocate to where it can operate to provide services, including coordinating plans and activities about how best it can address this conflict,” explained Akuei.
Upper Nile’s information Minister, Philip Jiben Ogal, also confirmed that the state cabinet had unanimously approved to designate Renk as its temporary administrative capital.
“The reasons for relocating and designating Renk as the capital of Upper Nile are to help the government carry out routine duties and activities. It is not a permanent designation but just temporary arrangements until security situation in Malakal is addressed”, Jiben separately told Sudan Tribune.
The decision, he said, was reached during an extraordinary cabinet meeting chaired by Governor Simon Kun Puoc, adding that member of the state parliament, cabinet ministers and key state civil servants would relocate to Renk town; the new area of operation.
“Already there are some officials in Renk area. You know that Renk is a big town to accommodate the two governments, the county and the state governments. There is no problem there at all. The demonstration by the community was simply to alert the government and their concerns would be addressed,” said the minister.
“The government does not intend to stay long in the area. The government does not intend to stay there permanently. It is a just on temporary arrangement,” he added, but stressed that the government would return to Malakal once it was recaptured from the rebels.