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Human rights body condemns Jonglei killings, calls for urgent action

By Julius N. Uma

February 13, 2011 (JUBA) - Alarmed by recent attacks in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, a human rights body has condemned recent clashes between the southern army and forces loyal to rebel George Athor.

By Friday, at least 105 people are believed to have been killed after fighting broke out between the South Sudan army, the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), and Athor’s forces in Fangak County, in Jonglei. The majority of those killed were women and children, the southern army has said.

On Sunday, the Southern Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy (SSHURSA) condemned last week’s killings, urging the southern government to take urgent action against all forms of human rights violations.

“We are deeply saddened by the indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians in Fangak County of Jonglei state. It is in this regard that we call upon the Government of Southern Sudan and the SPLA to immediately intervene and bring these two conflicting parties to the negotiating table,” Boutros Rwai Biel, SSHURSA’s executive director said.

Athor, a former deputy chief of general staff in the SPLA, began his rebellion after losing the gubernatorial seat for Jonglei, to his main rival, incumbent governor Kuol Manyang Juuk, after contesting last year’s general elections as an independent candidate. He accused the South’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), of intimidation and vote rigging and has refused to recognize the results.

In April 2010, the government of South Sudan, accused Athor of staging an attack on the SPLA base adjacent to his home village of Khorfulus, located north-west of Jonglei capital, Bor. Athor denied the accusations, claiming that his rebellion occurred when soldiers in the southern army under his control refused orders to arrest him.

Since his rebellion Athor’s forces, predominantly members of his ethnic group and members of the surrounding communities, have clashed several times with SPLA forces. In October, South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, issued a presidential decree pardoning him and his forces.

In early January, Athor’s negotiating team and the government of South Sudan with the SPLA, signed a cessation of hostilities agreement, which charted a way forward for a final agreement after integration of his forces by the end of January 2011. This has not taken place mainly due to the condition of the amnesty; that Athor’s forces disarm before they rejoin the SPLA. This has proved a stumbling block and Athor has requested that Kiir review this condition.

In a recent communiqué the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, called for the immediate implementation of the January ceasefire agreement. He urged the South Sudan leadership to protect the lives of innocent civilians.

“The Secretary-General expresses his concern over the renewed fighting in Southern Sudan between the Southern People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the rebel forces of General [George] Athor, which reportedly resulted in at least 100 civilian casualties,” according to Ban’s February 11 statement.

Started in 2007 by legal professionals, SSHURSA, which operates in Jonglei, Unity and Central Equatoria states, closely works with legislators, local government authorities, civil society organizations, women, youth and children to protect fundamental human rights in society.