20,000 displaced and 1,000 missing after Jonglei attacks
By John Actually
February 16, 2011 (BOR) – South Sudan officials say they are concerned that there may be more violence in Jonglei state after 202 people were killed in recent clashes between forces of rebel leader George Athor Deng and the Southern army (SPLA).
MPs of Pangak of county: Peter Kuon Yak (Left), Tuoung Majok Deng (Right). Feb 16, 2011 (ST)
The attacks in Pangak county have also led to 109 people being seriously injured according to local officials. Members of Parliament (MPs) from Pangak have also reported that over 1,000 people are still missing and an estimated figure of 20,000 people have been displaced by the violence.
A team led by South Sudan’s Humanitarian Affairs minister James Kok Ruei, speaker of Jonglei Legislative Assembly (JLA) Peter Chol Wall, Pangak MP to the Jonglei state parliament Tuong Majok Deng among others visited Pangak on Tuesday February 15. They reported that 202 people were killed.
The investigation team said that, 48 of those killed were from South Sudan’s army (SPLA) and the other 154 people killed were innocent civilians, mostly children, women and elderly persons.
Jonglei state MP Majok said the bodies had been buried in two mass graves. Some of the bodies discovered were found in the Zeraf River with gunshot wounds, while others found in the river are believed to have drowned while trying to escape.
The fighting took place on February 9 and 10. But MPs from Pangak suspect that the there may be another attack. Majok said the two days of attacks had put the county under siege with transport links being blocked and fear instilled among the civilian populations.
In the 23rd Jonglei parliamentary session that took place on Wednesday, February Majok, who is the MP for the Pangak North constituency number three, raised a motion blaming the both the Jonglei state government and Government of South Sudan (GoSS) for not protecting the “innocent people” of Pangak county.
The motion gained support from the house and the parliament demanded that the governor be summoned to explain why the GoSS and the state government failed to protect the civilians in Pangak. The Jonglei parliament is next due to sit on February 17.
Majok blamed the government of South Sudan for granting the Door Boma area, which connects the county with Malakal and Mankuilual (Kolnyang) along the road to Jonglei capital, to Athor for his forces to operate in.
He said that when the ceasefire between the SPLA and Athor’s forces was agreed the leadership of Pangak was not informed that the areas had been given to Athor. Majok told reporters after the session that the area Athor operates in is “the most important” in the county.
The speaker of Jonglei parliament, Peter Chol Wall in his office in Bor. Feb 16, 2011 (ST)
The speaker of Jonglei Assembly, Chol Wal said Athor has become more powerful since South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir announced an amnesty for his and other armed groups in the South ahead of the regions referendum on independence in January.
Wal said that he believed Athor is getting military support from support from North Sudan, from which the oil-producing South is due to separate from in July. He referred to an incident in August where the SPLA claimed to have captured a helicopter being used to transport soldiers loyal to Athor to Khartoum. Athor has denied he is receiving help from the the Khartoum government.
The speaker also said that Athor Deng had used the ceasefire period to recruit young men from Pigi, Ayod, Wuror and Nyirol counties into his forces.
Wall told reporters at the press conference after the session that he has received a list of persons who are accused by the their county commissioners to have helped Athor forces in recruitment of more young people, but he declined to release the list before investigations are completed.
General George Athor Deng Dut was one of the top military officers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) during the South’s civil war against Khartoum. He was close to the late SPLA chairman, John Garang De Mabior, who died in a helicopter crash in 2005 while returning to one of his bases in the South from neighboring Uganda.
The highest position Athor held in the SPLA was that of Chief of General Staff for Political and Moral Orientation.
He ran for the governorship of Jonglei as an independent candidate after failing to secure approval of his candidacy from the SPLM political bureau. Athor lost the April 2010 elections and took to the bush, accusing the officials from the SPLM of intimidation and votes rigging in favor of his main rival, incumbent Jonglei State Governor, Kuol Manyang Juuk.