Home | News    Tuesday 16 February 2010

’Calm’ returns to Jonglei’s Twic East after sectional fighting

By Philip Thon Aleu

February 15, 2010 (BOR) – Authorities in Twic East County, where inter-sectional clashes left at least 4 people dead and over 20 others wounded, say the “situation is [now] calm”. Sudan Tribune counted 15 wounded people from both sides in Bor Civil Hospital Monday and “many more” are said to be nursing injuries in Twic East villages.

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A victim of Wangulei clashes in Bor Hospital (by Philip Thon ST)

Hand axes, spears and other metal weapons claimed lives and caused injuries in the Wangulei clashes. Guns were not used on Thursday or the death toll could have been different, witnesses say, crediting government disarmament efforts with residents of Twic East and neighboring counties ending last month.

The County Commissioner Diing Akol told the Sudan Tribune by phone from Panygoor, the headquarters of Twic East, on Monday that police forces have prevented “more death and saved lives” by separating the two warring Ayual and Dacuek sections of Nyuak Payam.
The root cause of last week’s clashes could not be independently established. However, conflicting sources from both sides claim having been attacked by another on Thursday February 11.

COMPETETION OVER ‘TOCH’ AND WANGULEI CENTER

Both Dacuek and Ayual are contesting ownership of Wangulei Payam center and cattle camps in the Toch (wetland between the River Nile tributaries) west of Nyuak. The case, which had never before caused inter-sectional clashes, was brought before the county authority and a seven-judge committee was formed to deal with it. According to officials, the jury declared that three cattle camps in the Toch belong to Dacuek while the payam headquarters at Wangulei is government-owned. There are more than 3 cattle camps in the Toch. This means that the two sections could share the dry season grazing land as usual as well as the Payam center.

Ayual disputed the court’s verdict and decided to appeal. Then, in an incident that is said to have sparked the fighting, a dancing Dacuek youth started caning an Ayual woman at the Payam center on Thursday and subsequently confronted anyone siding with her, according to attendants of victims of the clashes being nursed here in Bor.

An account from Dacuek side is totally reversed: it claims that Ayual attacked the Dacuek on Thursday evening when they were dancing in Wangulei. Those who talked to the Sudan Tribune from Ayual explained that the court’s decision giving Dacuek three cattle camps of Guar, Pathoor and Pakat is unacceptable. As for Wangulei, Ayual say the government’s ownership should not prevent them from exercising traditional land rights. Ayual strongly denied igniting the clashes that killed three people from their side. A fourth man, also from Ayual, was killed 2 days before the inter-sectional feuding and relatives say his death is related to the latest fight.

Efforts made to speak to chiefs, the accused and defendants, as well as the judges who are settling the disputes, were futile. Their spouses answered phone calls saying “my husband is detained” by the government.

Officials say that “many more people” with injuries remain in Twic East. Of the 15 wounded people in Bor hospital, 4 are in critical condition with one man in his late 50s having had part of his tongue cut during the clashes. Sudan Tribune obtained four names of the deceased but is withholding them out of regard for the Dinka Bor method of making death announcements.

“ONE PEOPLE”

In the hospital where victims of Thursday’s clashes are being nursed, both sides expressed regret over the clashes. They say “we are one people. This fighting is not good.” This statement that has being repeated by Nyuak citizens who reached Sudan Tribune by emails or phone calls from Sudan and around the world.

Commissioner Diing Akol commended efforts made by the government to intervene and dismissed claims that he took one side in his capacity as the county leader.

“We are trying to prevent more deaths. We are saving lives,” he responded when asked to explain the government’s use of military jeeps to chase civilians and arrest them though allegedly not targeting all local people who were involved the clashes. The commissioner cautioned those “magnifying tension” that “this is the election period and we have no [ill] interest toward anybody.” He says the government urgently responded to the situation to halt the clashes that otherwise might have continued three whole days.

Ayual had complained to the media that county and national leaders have sabotaged the verdict in the court and favoring Dacuek’s encroachment of their lands.

But unlike other clashes, some think it likely that the victims will get justice and the tension will subside since there are organized traditional courts and customarily smooth ties between the groups that fought, which are both Twic Dinka Bor.

Jonglei suffered a series of tribal clashes in 2009 which the government attributed to arms in the hands of civilians.

(ST)