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Western Equatoria governor calls for peaceful coexistence

July 7, 2014 (JUBA) – The governor of South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State called on Monday for peaceful coexistence among local communities in the area after violence erupted in Maridi town over the weekend resulting in the shooting death of one man.

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WES governor Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro, pictured in his office on 24 January 2012, has called for peaceful coexistance among communities following rising tensions over federalism (ST)

The incident, which sparked widespread panic among residents, was reportedly triggered over what officials termed as a misunderstanding arising from ongoing debate in the country over federalism after local youth expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the central government and its handling of governance issues. Another man was also injured in the dispute.

In an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune on Sunday, governor Joseph Bangasi Bakosoro described the incident as “unfortunate”, saying the government was working to ensure the culprits are held accountable.

He has called on communities to live together in peace and harmony and not to engage in divisive behaviour or violence.

“It was unfortunate that some lives were lost but we still call on our people to exhibit love, patience and let the matter be settled peacefully,” he said.

“It is time for our people to live together. The tribal [way of] thinking will not help us move forward. The country is now in crisis [and it is] not good [if] we divide ourselves,” he added.

A government delegation comprising of top level military officers and politicians from the region visited Maridi county following the incident where they held a series of meetings with local officials and residents in the area in an effort to calm tensions.

Bakosoro said the general security situation in the area was stable, saying people were now preparing for celebrations marking the fourth anniversary of South Sudan’s independence from the north, from which it seceded in 2011 following a brutal civil war spanning more than two decades.

“The general security situation is OK. It is calm and normal,” he said. “The Maridi incident is a minor [issue] and is being addressed,” he added.

The violence in Maridi is the first deadly incident linked to the debate triggered by local discussion supporting calls advocating for the establishment of a federal system of governance.

The government was last week forced to deny claims it was attempting to muzzle public debate on federalism by censoring media reports.

Former vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar has been a leading proponent for the introduction of a federal system, saying it would help promote diversity and a fairer distribution of resources.

However, president Salva Kiir has rejected the demands, saying restoring peace to the country should be the first priority.

Last month, the president criticised the people of Equatoria for championing demands for federalism, describing them as having been “set up” by Machar, allegedly to create internal divisions.

The remark before the nation’s parliament stoked tensions among those supportive of Machar’s calls and opponents to the system amid ongoing conflict and political instability in the country, which has been mired in violence since mid-December last year after a split emerged in the ruling SPLM.

Peace talks between the government and Machar’s rebel faction have so far failed to halt violence on the ground.

(ST)

- S. Sudan army subdues rising tensions in Western Equatoria