Greater Tonj area college and university students petition South Sudanese authorities on violence

Category: Commentary
Published on Monday, 20 April 2009 05:13
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His Excellency Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Government of Southern Sudan, FVP of the Republic of the Sudan, C-in-C, SPLA And Chairman of the SPLM.

His Excellency the State Governor, Warrap, Toor Deng Mawien, Excellencies, the commissioners of Greater Tonj Area Namely, Mr. Kon Bol Yuoot, Commissioner, Tonj South County, Mr. John Mayik, Tonj East County, Mr. Deng Ayieny Aleu, Tonj North County, All Honourable members of Parliament, South Sudan Legislative Assembly, and Warrap state Assembly from Greater Tonj Area The Police, And, All the people of Goodwill, Peace and love of God to you all!

Re: Stoking the Flames of Conflict across Greater Tonj Area

Excellencies,

We the undersigned College and University students of Greater Tonj Area have again learnt of another unfortunate outbreak of violence in Tonj with immense anguish as it brings out a clear negative influence on the development of Greater Tonj. Tonj  is a peace loving and law abiding community, whose selfless contribution in
achieving the freedom of the marginalised since day one of the struggle of Southern
Sudan for justice and peace in the region is significant in SPLM/A historical
struggle. Sadly, since the signing of the CPA, Tonj has been marred by
inter-community conflicts pitting each section against the other.

We acknowledge the fact that what is happening in Greater Tonj is not a state of violence limited to the area of Tonj alone but a general problem in the three regions of Upper Nile, Equatorial and Bahr el Ghazal of Southern Sudan. It is a state of confusion overwhelming Southern Sudan to which all energies and focus of the people’s government should be directed to address in order to create an atmosphere conducive to peace and development.

We are saddened by the consequences these conflicts bring with them: loss of lives, property and trust which could have been indispensable factors in the progress and development of our country.

We feel that these local conflicts undermine the authority of the government of the people and instead encourage the culture of impunity and disregard for law and order.

We give credence to the fact that the government must enforce the rule of law on the people in order to achieve peace, security, unity among the communities, which will sustain uninterrupted development of our nation.

We believe that the general break-down in inter-communal relations, state of anarchy and conflicts are a cause of concern to all well-intentioned or right-minded members of this great land and beyond.

We are also concerned that this state of lawlessness could be a stain on the image of the competent Government of South Sudan, which strives to bring peace and development to all communities and the natives of Southern Sudan. We are aware, appreciative and thankful to our leaders at all levels and for the effort exerted by our state leaders, our County commissioners, local leaders and law enforcement agencies in trying to quell the conflict and restore sense of normality across Greater Tonj.

We have observed that the latest spots of conflicts in the land are: Lou-Ariik against Apuk-Padoch, Tonj north; Apuk-Jurwiir against Thony, Tonj South and Luac-koth against Akook Deng Acuil, Tonj East.

We are afraid that though some of the areas mentioned might have quietened, hatred must be boiling since investigation has not been carried out appropriately so that justice is given where it is due.

And we are convinced that truth and justice are more powerful than display of arms to scare-stiff the fighting communities. Sending a force to the fighting zones temporary helps to stop the local fighting, but it would be appropriate if such a force is followed by an independent team to investigate the cause and settle peace among the fighting locals.

As youth of Greater Tonj in Uganda, we convened a meeting in Kampala from the 14th – 16th of April 2009 to identify the source of the raving conflicts eating up our community and be able to voice our concerns and recommendations. On that note, we have identified the following as sources of conflict in Greater Tonj Area:

1. That some members in the communities of Greater Tonj especially Youths still loosely carry guns, which are used to devastative effect in the local conflicts.

2. That the law enforcement agencies on the ground are short of personnel and resources, making it hard to control the civil population, which is heavily armed. In the same vein, we have noted that the police force is being concentrated in towns and are not deployed in the rural areas, where lawlessness is rampant.

3.That the idea of disarmament is an issue requiring immediate solutions for the sake of peace, to be found at the level of GOSS considering the fact that most communities in Southern Sudan have guns and use it freely across the region.

4. That the local community is dissatisfied with justice system, which delayed justice on some burning issues. Some of these conflicts slowly build-up to an irreparable harm, when community members take law into their hands. A case in point is Apuk and Lou-Ariik conflict.

5. High illiteracy rate in Greater Tonj accelerated conflicts as people get stuck in old ways, then lack of civic education and peace education contributed to this simmering ignorance, which is over taking the great need for peace and unity of our people.

6. That the inadequate basic services to the communities in terms of water both for people and domestic animals, food security and social infrastructures in rural areas have led to scramble over the few available resources in the area leading to conflict. It is in our infinite view as sons and daughters of Greater Tonj Area that the initial vision of Dr John Garang of taking ‘town to people’ be the litmus test of our government’s policies in service delivery not only in Greater Tonj but in the whole country.

7. Influence from negative forces in our communities driven by desire to cause chaos and anarchy to discredit the noble effort of our government to bring unity and development to all the people of Southern Sudan.

8. War mentality among the civil population in Greater Tonj and beyond.

9. Cattle thefts and the illegal activities of the cattle defence unit 10. Pride amongst the communities and unscrupulous behaviour of some chiefs, who incite violence to achieve community leadership.

What we feel should be done

We the College and the University students of Greater Tonj feel that we cannot close this letter without presenting to your Excellencies, our genuine appreciation to the GOSS’s efforts to bring about law and order not only to Greater Tonj but the whole of Southern Sudan. For the sake of peace and allowing development to take its course, we request that the following steps and actions be taken:

(a) We request that GOSS and the Warrap state government take appropriate measures to promote reconciliation and dialogue between the conflicting communities of Greater Tonj area so as to turn the sweltering situation to normalcy as soon as possible.

(b) Local conflicts being a nation-wide issue, the GOSS should expeditiously launch a nation-wide disarmament exercise especially amongst pastoral communities of Southern Sudan in order to eradicate and reduce stockpile of arms in private hands, and find a way to stop vicious circle of arms getting back into civilian hands. We believe that the existence of Gelweng, which still carries guns amongst communities have fuelled conflicts and the government of the people should disarm them as soon as possible to guarantee security for all.

(c) That the GOSS and warrap state government adopt policies and measures to empower law enforcement agencies especially the police by provisions of equipment, recruitment and training of more police force and also to empower the justice system to do its duty as spelt out under the Interim constitution of Southern Sudan and the Interim National Constitution of the Republic of the Sudan.

(d) That the GOSS advises the state government to embark on peace and civic education program to create awareness amongst the communities to embrace peace, unity and to know the importance of being a law abiding citizen in Greater Tonj and beyond.

(e) We recommend that the GOSS considers legal reforms across the region. In particular, there should be a clear distinction in the application of customary laws with reference to the formal law. The Jurisdiction of Wanh-alel customary law should be limited to civil and customary cases only. The application of customary law in criminal cases is, in our view, ineffective because it lacks sufficient deterrence thereby encouraging individuals to indulge in criminal acts.

(f) The administration of justice in South Sudan is a major concern to us in that most Courts are run by traditional chiefs with no legal training which mostly results into miscarriage of justice leaving the civil population with no alternative but take the law into their own hands.

(I) it is common knowledge that procedures followed in these courts are archaic and inconsistent with Article 126 of the Interim constitution of Southern Sudan. We have noted for instance, the system of taking an oath before traditional medicine men, whose powers are not subject to scientific proof. This system does not deliver true justice and we are confident that it is responsible for some of the blistering conflicts in our communities.

(ii) Weak prison services in Greater Tonj are generally loose. Culprits either escape when arrested or use loopholes in the justice system to go scot-free as complainants watched by. In the end conflicts between individuals, which should have been amicably handled would develop into immense conflicts between the communities leading to insecurity and deaths of many. We propose prison reforms by way of training and equipping prison personnel and improving prison facilities in the region.

(iii) Parliament should make stiff laws to tackle criminal individuals who for one reason or another incite community conflicts. We have noted with concern the role of spiritual leaders and other individuals, who usually incite people to fight. (g) We think it prudent for the government to recruit and train a special police force based, and tasked with community policing in rural areas especially cattle settlements and maintain law and order in those areas. To achieve this, the government can borrow a wealth of experience from other African states with similar experiences in community policing among pastoral communities.

In conclusion, we caution the government on excessive use of force since it would not solve anything significant in the conflict. The government should be able to address underlying issues which cause conflict. Application of disproportionate force on the side of the army on the civil population, where the army goes loose, prowling and acting with impunity as seen in the past has resulted into looting and victimization of the innocents, who might have not taken part in the conflict. We would like to recall your attention to the fact that the main objective and duty of a government is to maintain security for all its citizens and Southern Sudan rural areas should not be an exception. The government we have today is a government of the people and should prove so by showing its effectiveness and commitment to control and maintain security for all. Community conflicts should not be condoned and we call upon GOSS to come up with a comprehensive policy to address security challenges in rural areas to maintain equilibrium for a balanced national development.

Excellencies, we pledge our undying support and commitment to the government strategies for peace in the region and we promise to work hand in hand with all actors concern to bring peace to the Greater Tonj and beyond. We would be willing to fully participate in the initiatives such as peace education and civic education programs to create awareness among communities. Finally, we stand in solidarity with all Southern Sudanese of all walks of life whose conscience is against such acts and we condemn in the strongest terms possible the occurrence of such barbaric and primitive conflicts taking place in the present age of ours, where we should be concerned with education, development, building peace and mutual coexistence.

For and on behalf of College and University students of Greater Tonj, Kampala, Uganda.

1. Mr. Mabior Malek Agei, Chairperson of the student Action Group

2. Angelina Riak Akech, Deputy Chairwoman of the student Action Group

3. Monychol Akop Deng, Secretary of the student Action Group

 4. Joseph Anei Madoor Maluach, Deputy Secretary

5. Mr. Peter Majok Mou, Chairperson, Tonj Youth Union

6. Nyanjang Malek, secretary for finance

7. Clara Achok Wol, secretary for information

8. Martin Mawien Mawien, member

9. Clement Deng Akech, member

10. Bakhita Aluong Gum, member

11. Daniel Bol Deng, member

12. Makuei Aguer Adeel, member

13. Madut Bol Madut, member

14. Lino Mayen Gueet

15. Aduoot Aduoot Aleu

16. Kuol Fadeli Majok

17. Ngor Majok Ngor

18. Albino Athian Ariik

19. Athian James Makuach

20. Adumal Manyual Ngong

21. Angelo Mathil Gum Mading

22. Dut Gum Mading

23. Deng Kuol Majakdit

24. Dut Lual Anei

25. Mabior Machar Ater

26. Majok Akotdit Makuach

27. Gabriel Gai Marek

28. Andrea Majok

29. Nhial Beny Til

30. Joseph Maluk Ngoth

31. Marial Mawien Koknyin

32. Peter Manyiel Ngoth

33. Makuei Francis Gur

34. Kuek David Aweer

35. Maruop Mayen

36. Teresa Athil Tach

37. Deng William Malou

38. Akuchpiir Daniel Malou

39. Akot Mawien

40. Adut Kur

41. Gai Monyman

42. Aluel Akot

43. James Malual Madut

44. Aguek Francis