June 5, 2014 (RUMBEK) – Lakes state’s military caretaker governor, Maj-Gen Matur Chut Dhuol, has ordered eight county commissioners to forcefully recruit youth to join South Sudan’s national army (SPLA).
In his statement to chiefs and commissioners, Dhuol said that all youth must join the army to defend state interests.
He has directed commissioners to recruit 800 youth from each county and to use force if necessary against those who resist.
Rumbek Central county commissioner Mawat Manuer has instructed county chiefs and youth leaders to mobilise young men for recruitment.
Manuer has reportedly threatened to dismiss chiefs who fail to recruit youth to fight rebel forces in South Sudan.
“Those chiefs who will fail to bring me their youth to join the army will be sacked – you are mandated by [the] governor order to recruit youth,” he said.
“Anyone who will not apply this order will lose his position before I lose my position,” he added.
Seven counties, including Wulu, Rumbek East, Yirol West, Yirol East, Cueibet and Awerial, have distanced themselves from the governor’s mandate.
Lakes state youth activist Moses Ater called on Dhuol to step down, accusing him of warmongering despite efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully.
“This imposed caretaker governor must step down, otherwise force will be used against him to step down,” said Ater.
“I hear president Salva Kiir talking about peace and not about war. Where is this governor getting orders of recruiting youth to join the army from?” he added.
Youth activists and traditional authorities have repeatedly called for Dhuol’s removal amid claims he has failed to stem ongoing violence and tribal conflict in the state, although Kiir has so far overlooked the calls.
Dhuol came under heavy criticism last month over his calls for the state’s youth to join the military.
Violence erupted in South Sudan in mid-December last year following escalating political tensions within the ruling SPLM.
The conflict has pitted troops loyal to Kiir, who hails from the Dinka tribe, against rebel forces aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar, a Nuer.
Activist Moses Majok said that while youth in Lakes state stand alongside the elected government, they are not prepared to engage in ethnic violence.
“[The] Nuer community are our brothers,” he said.
While Dinka groups and Lakes state and Nuer youth in neighbouring states are known to engage in cross-border cattle raids, Majok questioned why the tribes should engage in further violence now that South Sudan had achieved independence.
Majok said youth have complained of receiving rough treatment at the hands of the state security agency, with some being detained at Langcok military prison without charge.
He claimed that “Dhuol had crushed justice and education in Lakes state”.
The refusal of Lakes state’s Dinka youth to join military forces recruited to fight against rebels has led to increased tensions between the state and central government in Juba.
Ongoing fighting between the government and rebels has killed thousands and displaced over 1.3 million people, with hundreds of thousands fleeing to neighbouring countries.
Activists and civil society groups in Lakes state capital last stepped up pressure on Dhuol to resign over the way he has run the state since he was appointed in January 2012.