Accountability of Lakes Governor over Rumbekís incidents
By Maker Marial
In the aftermath of last Monday weapon search in Rumbek town by the soldiers of Sudan Peopleís Liberation Army, (SPLA), three innocents civilian are reported killed and seven seriously injured. The critically wounded including those civilians and officials who had sustained some minor injuries from the beatings are now recovering from their wounds at Rumbek Regional Hospital. These include the State Deputy Speaker of the House, Honorable Marik Nanga, and the head of the Prison Warden Brigadier Majak Barkuei. Beside, there was also a rampant lootings, and destructions of homes and property in the town. This kind of looting was not even limited to Rumbek market, government offices and residential homes, it went far to include the compound of the United Nations Mission In Sudan (UNMIS) where Six VHF Motorola radios were reportedly sequestered from security guards. On the other hand, private own vehicles including those of the United Nations agencies were forcefully impounded and used to transport soldiers from one point to another. Also, the local businessmen had reported a substantial amount of their lost, amounting to over 1 millions American dollars when their shops were broken into and plundered.
However, despite all these horrendous harassment and degradation against the people of Rumbek by soldiers, the victims and the vast majority of Lakes States citizens hold the Governor of Lakes State, Lt. Gen Daniel Akot as the one who let his people to be mortified and abused. According to the reports obtained from the ground, the troops were dispatched from Juba, the capital of South Sudan in response to a request made by the Mr. Akot to come and help with the civiliansí disbarment exercises in the region. In April this year, Mr. Akot warned the citizens of Rumbek during the dedication of a new Church in Pacong as well as during the Sunday service in the Episcopal Church in Rumbek town about the possibility of such an incident that had actually taken place in Rumbek last Monday. In both of his speeches, he seriously cautioned the citizens of Rumbek, the youth in the Eastern County in particularly that if they didnít want to give up their arms voluntary then he preferred their mothers not to cry. Also, he added that over one thousands troops were on their way to the region from Juba with an intention to disarm civilians, and whoever would not comply, would be dealt with in a more serious way.
Additionally, there was a rally held at Freedom Square in which his Deputy Governor Mr. Awan Guol asked the residents to cooperate with the soldiers by not inferring with their firearms search the day before. This message apparently came from him, the (Governor) but he failed to also send similar message to the soldiers and instruct them to refrain from abuse and the use of excessive force against residents. For the above reasons, there is no doubt that Mr. Akot was not behind the incident. He masterminded it while the soldiers in question were just his actors who were following his orders. they should not be blamed for their outrageous actions.
In fact, inter-clan conflicts have caused a major insecurity in the state over the years when civilians resorted to taking matters in their own hands after realizing that the state authority failed to apply equal justice upon its citizens. According to Lakes State citizens, the authority treats those who have committed crimes differently when they have their relatives holding big positions in the state government for the same crime that could cause a poor man whose relatives are not popular in the state his life or prison term. For that reason, those relatives of the victims who feel justice was not being applied equally revenged by killing those suspects who were allowed by state authority to roam freely on the streets.
This revenge killing began in Cueibiet region during 1990s when chiefs and intellectuals were being murdered in reprisal when their relatives had slain others. Beside, the innocents passers-by were also murdered in an absent of immediate relatives of an accused murderer. Consequently, many innocent lives were lost on the way between Rumbek and Tonj in 1990s. This lawlessness did not spread to Rumbek until late 2003 when Jaffer Aperier, a suspect who was accused of slaying another young man was killed in Rumbek town after he was released from prison without being put on trial. The relatives of the deceased were angered by the fact that the late Jefferís released was influenced by the fact that his relatives were the ones holding power from military, civil authority to town court. So, according to them, their reaction by killing the accused was because they believed that Justice was not going to prevail in that case. However, prior to his murder, the relatives of his victim had released some several verbal warnings, requesting that he should be rearrested before their actions however the authority failed to act.
The same thing happened in late 2006 when two young men who had murdered another young man from panyar section were arrested without being tried and as a result the relatives of the victim accused the state authority of collaborating with the suspects and therefore resorted to the killing of the local Executive Chief Mr. Marial Mamur in Akot. As a result, the chiefís murder had result in the death of 12 people from both sides of Panyar and Patiop during a daylong gun battle. Consequently, the then Governor of Lakes State, John Lat Zechariah was relieved from his post and replaced with the current Governor Lt. Gen Daniel Akot with the hope that he would bring calm to the region.
Nonetheless, despite being viewed as someone who could restore order in the region, Akot instead brought with him his long time friend, and the one he knew very well for his brutality against civilians in Rumbek in 1980s, Brigadier Bol Akot. Being stationed in Akot with full powers, Brigadier Bol focused his action on materials than to bring peace between the two warring clans and arrest the culprits. Instead, he ordered his soldiers to loot cattle mainly from Panyar section and arrested the parents of those accused of taking part in the conflict. The arrestees were then tortured occasionally while their living conditions were so horrible to an extent it reached the point where some of them died of dehydration and suffocation when they were locked in rooms where ventilation was so poor. In addition, the rooms that were mainly designed for classrooms were always overcrowded and as a result people were contracting diseases and died there in prison. Furthermore, people were dying of starvation because their food supplies were inadequate while on the other hand their relatives in the villages were not allowed to bring in any food.
Additionally, there was also rampant beating of civilians in the villages, on streets and in Rumbek town. This abuse was not limited only to the citizens but also to include foreigners who were there to help the needy people. I witnessed all these malpractices when I visited the region in June 2007 and accidentally went to Akot near prison where I thought was a primary school and mistakenly took a picture of a young man with a bull. As a result, I was misperceived by Akotís men and was arrested on spot and ordered to be whipped 50 times immediately without any investigation. However, being a known person and having friends and colleague within the group I was spared and forgiven but my friend whom I had taken his picture was the only one left to bear the pain. He was forced to the ground and stroke 25 times. It was a cruel and humiliating abuse I thought would no longer be in practice in southern Sudan, particularly after the adoption of the interim constitution. However, despite being pardoned I was detained there for almost an hour before being let go while my shoes, belts, notebook and a camera were taken from me. They were returned later after I was released.
Besides this hideous abuse, a number of cattle were seized from the suspects but later found their way to the auction in Rumbek market. This action had left many young children of suspects and elderly parents to suffer and die of starvation and malnourishment few months later when they didnít have enough milk to drink. Earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Akot released the statement that had left many people of Rumbek enraged and suspicious of him. Lt. Gen Akot had told the crowd during one of his rallies that the people of Rumbek had over 3 millions herd of cattle and that the state government must lay some plans to tax the owner for every single cow he or she had. Recently during the workshop that had brought over all the chiefs and youth leaders in Lakes State to discuss the disarmament exercise in the region, Mr. Akot warned the group that whoever fail to turn in his gun would be given a fine of 20 cows. However to many in the audience, his remarks were viewed as another way for him to let the people of Lakes State be robbed of their cattle by the military officers he would deploy to the region to collect illegal firearms.
Similar to the last Monday Rumbekís incident, Mr. Akot ordered without legal procedures the smoldering of the Sudanese old legal note tenders that were being used during the war and briefly after the CPA in 2007. He ordered his soldiers to go to the market and collect monies from traders and set them on fire without any promise for compensation. As a result of Mr. Akotís miscalculated decisions, the citizens of Rumbek town lost approximately millions of pounds with no one being remunerated for it. He later blamed his action on the money as being counterfeit. As a leader, he should have informed the public that the legal note in circulation was in question and would be getting rid of in a specified period. This way, the public would have arranged to take all these notes to the Bank for exchange had been informed about the changes.
In reaction to the September 8 incident in Rumbek, the Lakes State Legislative Assembly last Tuesday issued a 48 hours summon to the State Governor, Lt. Gen Daniel Awet Akot to explain the policies behind the disarmament exercise and the reasons why there were rampant misconducts in the firearm collections. However, with militaryís mind and attitude, Mr. Akot on Tuesday, September 16, 2008 responded with a written letter addressed to the speaker of the Assembly, Honorable Isaiah Aleir in which he demanded an apology from the Assembly for issuing a summon. According to him, he believes that his constitutional right as a Governor was violated when he was summoned by the State Legislative Assembly to answer some questions about the incident. This seems to be an abuse of power and lack of check and balance in the state government. As a Governor, Mr. Akot must be accountable to his people and what he has shown today proves that he doesnít care about anybody or responsible for any mistake he makes. And that is why he had done so many mistakes since he took over late 2006 without apologizing for them. In his mind, he believes that somebody in Juba has placed him there and no one else can remove him from his post. For that reason, the Lakes State legislative Assembly must remain firm in its position and should not apologize for its decision. The Assembly is there for the people and must remain the voice for the public its represents.
With all the above mentioned, and particularly the last Mondayís episode in Rumbek, the citizens of Lakes State are outraged and condemn in strongest possible terms Lt. Gen Daniel Awet Akot for allowing the residents of Lakes State to be abused, robbed and killed. Also, he is being held liable for all the atrocities committed since he took over the administration two years ago. He is a beloved citizen of Lakes State and had an obligation to uphold the dignity of his people. He had all the powers and supports to stop the last Mondayís incident but he let it happened. The apologies alone are not enough to heal the wounds inflicted in peopleís hearts and he is therefore advised to work in collaboration with the government of Southern Sudan so that the people of Rumbek are compensated for their damaged, looted property, and the family members they had lost during the incident. He must also ensure that the wounded are treated well and compensated for their wounds and bloodshed. He must also accept testifying before his state Legislative Assembly and apologize for being an arrogant. On the other hand, the perpetuators should immediately be brought to book while the disarmament exercise is handed over to the local chiefs and Galweng leaders. The military officers deployed to a particular area will then act as observers and not decision makers. They will act only if the chiefs or Galweng leaders request their technical assistance in the event their authority is dishonored.
Maker Marial is a citizen of Lakes State residing in the U.S. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a Minor in Criminal Justice. He can be reached at