July 5, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese government disclosed on Saturday that it had managed to contain rising tensions in Western Equatoria state, which saw one person killed and another injured on Friday after a dispute related to ongoing debate over federalism
- South Sudan’s deputy minister for foreign affairs Bashir Gbandi (thenile)
A government delegation of top level military officers and politicians from the region visited Western Equatoria’s Maridi county where the incident occurred and held series of meetings with local officials and residents who reportedly government of their commitment to remains calm and open space for free public debate over the proposed system of governance.
Peter Bashir Gbandi, the deputy foreign affairs minister, led a team to Maridi aconsisting of the army’s chief of general staff, Gen. Paul Malong Awan, and his deputy for operations, Lt. Gen. James Ajonga Mawut Ajonga, among other military officers and government officials.
The team was in the area to assess the situation and gather the facts on the incident. The visit was also seen as part of efforts by government to restore confidence in local communities following the violent incident which caused panic among local residents.
“We went to assess the situation and to talk to our people in my capacity as their representative in the parliament and also as a government minister about the commitment of the government to provide and maintain adequate protection to our people and their properties. I also carried a message of commitment of the government to open up a space for free debate about the type of governance system they want,” Gbandi, also the area lawmaker in the national assembly, told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
“The government did not ban public debate. The problem is the way these debates are handled,” he added.
He dismissed reports that a rebellion was developing in the area after what appears a deliberate move by state agents to discourage debate on federalism.
“There is no rebellion. What happened was only a misunderstanding which has been resolved. The situation has returned to normal. People are going about their normal business,” he said.
The official was reacting to claims by rebel military spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Ruai Lul Koang that some youth from the area had joined the rebellion in protest against the ban on federalism debate.
“On the night of 3 July 2014, some courageous sons from greater Equatoria region joined war of resistance and opened fire on Kiir’s genocidal forces in Maridi, Western Equatoria. The resistance fighters, after successfully killing some of Kiir’s tribal militias, retreated to friendly forests on the outskirts of Maridi town. They are being joined by others and soon, a full-scale war of resistance will engulf the whole Greater Equatoria region,” partly reads the rebel spokesperson’s statement.
Gbandi, however, dismissed the opposition’s statement as “misleading propaganda”.
“There is no rebellion in Maridi. What happened was only a misunderstanding which has been resolved. The allegation that it developed into rebellion is a misleading propaganda,” he said.
On 2 July, the information ministry issued a statement clarifying that the government had not prevented the media or members of the public from openly debating on federalism and that such debates would help shape opinions for informed decisions.