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Jonglei state gov’t utter failure to protect her citizens

 

By Phillip Thon Aleu 

 If you ask any citizen of Jonglei– who is residing in the state right now, what sort of protection the government provides, the answer would be none. It is a ‘NO’ because the short history of Jonglei state is filled up with lack of personal security provided by any functioning government; being local or national government.

Estimates collated by United Nations agencies in 2010 alone put the death toll to more than 2,000 due to cattle raids and child abductions. Those figures are precisely the numbers local authorities could remember. When David Yau Yau launched his notorious rebellion after being defeated by the current state minister of information, Judy Jonglei Boyoris, for a state assembly, several hundreds of people were killed.

A brief halt to armed conflict in 2011, when Yau Yau returned to Juba under the presidential amnesty, did not last because he returned to the bush in August 2012.

The military engagement between the government and Yau Yau forces were centered in Pibor County (now part of Greater Pibor Administrative Area – GPAA). There were allegations of indiscriminate killings of civilians, including children, women and the elderly, by both sides.

Occasionally, suspected Yau Yau loyal forces launched multiple attacks on Bor and Twic East counties. Between 2011 – May 2014, hundreds of people were killed particularly in Jalle (Bor county), Pakeer and Ajuong Payams (Twic East county). The attack in Akot village, Jalle Payam, on December 5th 2011 left 57 people dead, including 12 children. On January 7th, 2012, a fierce battle took place in ‘Manyin-Gak’, a village in Pibor County, reportedly between a youth from Bor and Pibor counties. Hundreds of people died.

On January 9th, 2012, I went to Pibor town – two days after the battle in ‘Manyin-Gak’. This trip was sternly opposed by my relatives and friends given the hostilities between Bor, my county and Pibor. Despite the ‘level four security ring’ placed around our visiting team by United Nations peacekeepers and the SPLA, I managed to sneak out and took a walk to Pibor market with a Murle friend. I was not a stranger in Pibor because Radio Miraya, which I worked for at the time, was the only available media in the area. When I first went to Pibor in 2010, I featured Murle cultural dance and became a popular story on Radio Miraya.

So a brief introduction from friend open a conductive environment to chat with the people. I took pictures and conducted interviews with local businessmen, students and teachers.

One person impressed me. His name is Kegen. I asked him how many people have been killed in the battle of ‘Manyin-Gak’ from the Murle side. He said ‘very many.’ Then he asked me about the people killed on Bor side. ‘Very many,’ I said.

Then we remained silent for a couple of seconds. He broke the ice, saying ‘this fighting is useless. If you see how the birds are hovering over the scene of the fight, you will be forced to ask why we are killing ourselves.’State gov’t failed

The countless attacks on Bor, Twic, Pibor, Duk, Nyirol, Urol, Akobo and Pochala by local armed youth have never been addressed by the state government. With a chunk of fiscal budget allocated to the rule of law, the state police have never ever pursued the raiders to one of the counties within the state. This is a failure of highest order.

A second failure comes from the leaders of Bor community – the seat of state government. A double failure because their villages are completely being deserted each day due to cattle and child abduction raids. These leaders should have done the following;

1. Initiate grassroots dialogue. This was successful in 2003 between the Murle and Bor county. This dialogue should not be hosted in the towns but the neighboring villages. This has never been tested since 2005.

2. Construct roads linking the Bor and Pibor areas. This will facilitate local business and easy mobility for national police and army.

3. Establish leadership contacts between Pibor and Bor. This should be a honest contacts. I know our MPs share telephone numbers but never cooperate on security issues. A sense of nationalism must start earnestly.

There was an opportunity in 2014 – when the government signed an agreement with Yau Yau to initiate the dialogue when GPAA was created. This never happened. I’m glued to dialogue because the bulk of Bor youth, who are supposed to provide security in their villages due to the government failure, are not ready for tribal war. This is understandable because when there is a government, there is no need for local militia. So the remaining opportunity is dialogue. The raiders from both sides must understand that there are many benefits in peace than hostilities.

The notion that ‘we shall revenge’ will not bring peace to both communities. The only beneficiaries of these revenges are politicians – whose sons are not in this country, leave alone the counties, to engage in tribal wars. So the villagers shoulder the responsibility to revenge and suffer the consequences. I know individual families who lost their sons in the revenge attacks supported by politicians. Those families are still suffering today. There is no need to shift what should be a government responsibility to the civilians.

Security is number duty for any leadership.

The latest attack on Jalle is a failure by Bor County leaders – the MPs, commissioners and other stakeholders, to do their job. The focus now should be how to solve this problem once and for all. Revenge is not the answer. Community police is not the final answer. The best option, in my opinion, is dialogue. Let us use the coming dry season to bring our chiefs from both sides to a meeting in one of the selected villages. If we do this and follow with a strong application of the rule of law from the state and counties governments, raiding will decline from 2016.

 

 Philip Thon Aleu is a journalist 

 

 

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