July 5,2014 (JUBA) – Authorities in South Sudan’s Warrap state have managed to contain heavy gunfire that erupted on Saturday during a protest by police forces over a delay in the payment of their salaries.
- South Sudan Police officers on patrol (UN photo)
Police staged a violent strike in the capital, Kwajok, in protest over non-payment of their May and Junes salaries. Gunfire later rocked the town after the officers declined to accept an initial one-month payment.
Akec Tong, the state deputy governor, confirmed the incident, which he said was caused by misunderstandings before it was eventually controlled by authorities.
“It was just a misunderstanding between police officers and soldiers over payment but it has been settled. The soldiers were demanding pay and you know it is a holding day; it is a weekend which is not working day,” Tong told Sudan Tribune by phone.
“They were told to wait for Monday but they refused and went on rampant shooting into the air, causing panic among civilian population in town. But we maintained to contain the situation. The situation is now calm,” he added.
Joseph Anei Mador, the head of political affairs and public relations in the governor’s office, separately admitted that the initially tense situation was peacefully contained.
“There is no problem. Everything is under control. The acting governor and other senior officials in the state government intervened. They went to the police headquarters and held meeting with their officers and soldiers about the payment. The issues they (police soldiers) raised were genuine,” Mador told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
“They wanted to be paid so that their families could go and buy something which they would like to use for the celebration, which was genuine concern and it was resolved. The administration agreed to commence payment,” he added.
OFFICERS DENY CLAIMS
Several police sources, however, dismissed as untrue authorities’ claims that payment issues were amicably resolved, threatening further protests should they fail to act.
“They lied to you. Not a single comrade has been paid as I am talking to you. Also they are talking of one month payment while we are supposed to be paid two months. They claimed it is one month which had been released from Juba but the same Juba is telling us they have released two months payment,” one of the striking officers said by phone from Kwajok.
“So we want to be paid all our salaries. We don’t know why they want to give us only one month and did not explain about the remaining month,” he added.
The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, admitted that some officers fired in the air out of anger after state authorities failed to give proper explanations over their salary arrears.
“Yes, some of the colleagues fired into the air. It was out anger caused by the lack of proper explanation. It was just a demonstration of anger to the authorities concerned. That it was they were shooting into the air. They were not intending to harm civilians,” he explained.
The shootings, eyewitnesses said, caused panic among town residents, forcing traders to close their shops and limited movement, despite heavy deployment of government troops.