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Lakes: inter-clan peace conference breaks down after MPs clash

April 8, 2014 (RUMBEK) – Peace and reconciliation efforts between the Kuei and Rup Dinka sections in Lakes state’s Rumbek Central county of has broken down following a physical altercation between MPs.

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Cattle raiding has been a major source of conflict in South Sudan’s Lakes state (Photo: Cedric Gerbehaye/Pulitzer Center)

The incident occurred on Tuesday during discussions at the conference hall at Akon Buo during a meeting co-chaired by representatives of the Rup and Kuei in a bid to reconcile their differences, which stem from a dispute over cattle ownership which erupted in November last year.

Tensions boiled over during the meeting after a verbal exchange between MPs Kedit Madol Kedit and Abraham Makoi Bol Kodi turned physical.

In a separate incident, youth from both Kuei and Rup removed the microphone from the hands of the deputy governor and demanded the meeting be immediately closed after they were were prevented from speaking at the conference.

The Rumbek Center Peace Committee (RCPC) was set up in February with the aim of building peace and trust between the two communities and comprises of 10 members nominated by their respective communities.

It was established just one month after the appointment of the military caretaker governor, Maj-Gen Matur Chut Dhuol, after president Salva Kiir issued a decree removing his democratically elected predecessor, Chol Tong Mayay.

POLITICAL TENSIONS

This week’s incident is the second time Kedit has been involved in a political spat.

Tensions flared in parliament in November last year after comments by MP Kockedhia Puoudak that the peace committee set up to settle disputes and normalise inter-clan relations between the Rup and Kuei sections Rumbek Central county is failing.

The parliamentary sitting was subsequently adourned after Kedit threatened violence, accusing Puondak of attempting to publicly distort and damage the governor’s image.

Puoudak’s statements to parliament came after Governor Dhuol described women in Malek payam as “ugly” while on a visit to the area, sparking widespread outrage.

Both Kedit and Kodi were dismissed from the conference hall following their altercation on Tuesday, and the meeting ended without resolution.

Kodi is among a group of lawmakers from Rumbek Central county calling for Dhuol’s resignation, accusing him of inciting violence and lawlessness since his appointment 14 months ago.

Kodi cited the arbitrary arrest and dismissal of chiefs without reason.

He also said students on governor-funded scholarships had been denied their stipends, forcing them to drop out of school.

“Governor Matur Chut Dhuol must resign if his is a wise man – this ongoing conflict is his own making,” said Kodi.

The comments sparked a heated response from Kedit, who labelled Kodi a “liar”.

TRIBAL CLASHES

Lakes state has been the scene of increasing tribal tensions in recent months, amid growing calls for the governor to stand down.

On 4 April, a group of 57 lawmakers launched a reconciliation process in a bid to quell inter-clan clashes.

A team of lawmakers from the nation’s capital, Juba, joined state MPs in Cueibet county where about 50 people were killed in recent clashes between the Panyar and Waat at Tiatiap payam (district).

Pastoralist youths, however, have rejected the efforts of lawmakers, demanding that Dhuol be removed.

State MP Nyanbol Rin has also demanded Dhuol’s resignation, describing him as a “heartless and hopeless” leader.

She has called on Kiir to step in to save the image of Lakes state and appoint a replacement to reconcile differences in the state.

CHIEFS ARRESTED

Dhuol has arrested a number of chiefs for failing to arrest suspects in tribal revenge killings in their communities.

Four chiefs were dismissed in Greater Yirol counties last year, as well as Chief Gor Makuac from Rumbek East, who Dhuol described as a “hopeless person”.

However, chiefs say it is the police and not themselves that should be responsible for tracking and arresting suspects in crimes.

Makuac’s dismissal has angered local youth of the Dhiei section, with fresh clashes erupting between the Dhiei section, Amonhim and Tiek clans in Timic last week, resulting in the deaths of eight people. No suspects have been arrested in relation to the killings.

Police insist that young people and the wider public refuse to share information with them, blaming the poor relationship between the administration and the people of Lakes state.

Under South Sudan’s constitution, an election should be held within 90 days should the president remove a governor. However, this has yet to occur in the country’s three states where governors were removed last year.

(ST)