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South Sudan county official resigns over army abuses

November 17, 2016 (JUBA) - A commissioner in South Sudan’s newly created Yei River State has resigned in protest over the human rights abuses allegedly committed by pro-government forces in the area.

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South Sudanese SPLA soldiers are pictured in Pageri in Eastern Equatoria state on August 20, 2015 (Photo AFP/Samir Bol)

Jacob Toti, the commissioner of Lujulo county, accused government forces of committing “human rights violations," in recent weeks.

Last week, he said, the soldiers launched heavy attacks, in which they carried out heavy destruction on the civil population, resulting in brutal murder of a school head teacher, religious leader, burning of market centre, church building and looting of properties belonging to the civil population in the county.

These actions by government soldiers, he said, caused many civilians to flee into bushes while others ran to Uganda and Congo for safety.

“I don’t feel happy to see my own people being killed, tortured and houses burnt down. As such I have taken this hard decision to quit this position. Reasons are: last week our government forces looted a church, followed by shooting and burning of a market centre in the village. They also killed one person working for a local church and also killed the head teacher of Nyei primary school,” his letter reads.

It adds, “I am really very disappointed on the way the government soldiers are mistreating their own people and their unprofessional actions has made me to quit this position.”

The former county commissioner also dismissed reports claiming he was assigned by the state and central governments to hunt down Yei intellectuals residing in the West Nile region and Uganda at large.

“I also want to take this opportunity to dismiss an allegation that my name is in a document to hunt down people who hail from Yei River State to be deported back to South Sudan. My position is very clear, the situation in South Sudan needs inclusive dialogue but not deportation of people to South Sudan,” Toti further clarified.

“People have come to Uganda as individuals with their own different reasons. There is no way to join any group against the will of God by deporting them back to South Sudan to be killed. I wanted to be clear on this point that I cannot and I am not part of this mistake,” he added.

Toti urged the state governor to replace him with the person of his choice and proposed that dialogue be initiated if the country is to achieve peace.

In May, Human Rights Watch accused government soldiers of a wide range of deadly attacks on civilians in and around the western town of Wau. The army, it said, killed, tortured, raped, detained civilians and looted properties.