September 2, 2014 (JUBA) – A member of South Sudan’s national legislative assembly has described the formation of the Maban Defence Force, a local militia outfit in Upper Nile state’s Maban county, as a “legitimate force”.
UN Security Council and secretary-general condemned last month the killing of at least six aid workers of Nuer origin by militiamen in the county of Upper Nile state. The incident took place on 3 August after the defection of several soldiers of the national army deployed in the areas.
David Unyo Demey Kwara, who represents Maban in the national house, argued it is globally acceptable, especially in Africa, that local communities in lawlessness situation organise themselves into a force that would subsequently defend their lives and property in the event the national army is “overstretched or ineffective”.
“The other purpose is to fill up security gap and complement the efforts of the regular forces in the country. Such a force is not meant to fight a war against a sovereign state, even if there are grievances requiring attention,” Kwara said.
The legislator argued that South Sudan was no exception from such situation because it is only the way local population can protect itself from other communities in possession of weapons.
Kwara, who spoke to reporters on Monday in Juba, is the first official from the area to admit the presence of Maban Defence Force.
The lawmaker lamented that the ongoing armed conflict in the country lacks clarity and that makes the creation of local militias at the community level “a necessary choice”.
He, however, declined making a comment on the chain of command and source of military support but called on aid groups to resume the distribution of humanitarian aid, asserting that the security situation was now normal.
He described the attack on aid workers as a “misunderstanding”.
“What happened in Maban was not a rebellion in support of anybody, it was purely a misunderstanding between the local people and the members of the national army which defected from the area and started killing civilians,” Kwara said.