April 30, 2014 (RUMBEK) – Authorities in Rumbek, the capital of South Sudan’s Lakes state, have confirmed that death of an Ethiopian driver who was killed by unknown gunman on Tuesday en route to Maper county.
Police from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Lakes state police confirmed that the man, identified only as Ali, worked in Lakes state, operating his own minibus between Rumbek Central and Rumbek North counties had been gunned down early Tuesday morning between former Langcok military prison and Abuoi.
The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said police had yet to identify any suspects in the killing.
However, multiple sources confirmed to Sudan Tribune that an officer from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) onboard the bus at the time had exchanged fire with the attackers who had fled into the bush after opening fire on the 24-year-old driver, who had worked in Lakes state for the past four years.
An eyewitness on the bus at the time said the attackers appeared to be a mix of soldiers and cattle raiders, with some dressed in military uniforms.
“They (the attackers) just appear[ed] in front of road and the began firing at us, killing this driver immediately and then running to [the] bush after fire was replied by [the] SPLA officer who was on bus with us,” the eyewitness said.
A relative of the driver, who also requested anonymity, said tensions among Lakes state’s business community remained high amid heavy taxes and ongoing harassment.
In October 2013, a foreign logistics company operating in Rumbek Central county claimed it had been forced to close down due to government-imposed restrictions on its business activities.
AFEX Group, which was the first foreign company to begin operating in Rumbek Central county after the signing of a 2005 peace deal with the north which ended a more than two-decade-long civil war and paved the way for the South’s secession in 2011, says it has now completely ceased its business operations in the region.
There are growing calls for South Sudanese president Salva Kiir Mayardit to remove Lake state’s military caretaker governor, Maj-Gen Matur Chut Dhuol, who has been accused of implementing harsh security measures and inflaming a cycle of inter-clan tensions.
Dhuol was appointed after Kiir issued a decree removing his elected predecessor Chol Tong Mayay from office, reportedly over his failure to quell ongoing tribal violence in the region.
Under South Sudan’s constitution, an election should be held within 90 days should the president remove a governor. However, this has yet to occur in the country’s three states where governors were removed last year.