These church leaders (Bishop Daniel Adwok Marko of Catholic Church, Rev Ezekiel Kutjok the Moderator of Dolieb Hill Presbytery, Rev Samuel Nyawelo Ador the Senior Pastor of Dolieb Hill Presbytery, Rev Peter Obwonyo Oywach the Senior Pastor of Sudan Interior Church, and Rev Daniel Amum Odwel the Executive Secretary of Dolieb Hill Presbytery) urged the government leaders in Southern Sudan to start caring about the welfare of all the people of Upper Nile state, the South and Sudan at large. They feel very much concerned and aggrieved about the insecurity situation that is engulfing Collo land at the moment. According to them the insecurity facing Collo people today is directly related to three issues, namely:
1. LAND DISPUTE
Greater Upper Nile Province and other provinces, in the south, were created during the colonial era. In 1930's the British administration made districts with boundaries as they found lands being occupied by various tribes. Accommodation settlement, agriculture land, and in case of cattle raising tribes grazing lands, were put into consideration while demarcating the boundaries. Therefore, those areas were clearly marked on survey maps and any claims by any tribe or group may be referred to those maps especially those of 1935, which were used in 1980 when similar claims were made by the Dinka of Atar and Lwaj of Fangak District, on Collo land.
However, the reason for land claims were due to the wars (1955-72, 1983-2005), which displaced many communities. The worst displacement was caused by the last war where some tribes were used as militia against others and made to settle in areas of those displaced, for example at Dolieb Hill, south of Malakal and Piij at the Sobat-White Nile confluence (Canal). Almost all the Collo land east of the Nile was occupied by other tribes. More recently there have been claims by Dinka Ngok (Baileit), Dungjol (Akoka) and Pariang west of Tonga.
Therefore, in order to resolve land ownership the state authorities should have been wise and quick to embark on a solution of this issue with the participation of all the tribes living as neighbours. Unfortuntely, this did not happen and thus resulting in unnecessary loss of lives in January 2009 between Collo and Dinka Ngok. Again there were more lives lost between Collo and Dinka Lwaj in Piij because President Kiir located the head quarters of Atar County there as a resolution to the dispute between the two sections of Dinka forming the county. In both cases it is evident no serious investigation was carried out nor any meaningful action taken to bring the trouble makers to justice. The relatives of the dead were neither comforted nor compensated.
2. DISARMAMENT PROGRAMME
Security for citizens together with other essential needs such as food, shelter and health are the basic obligations of any responsible government in all areas under its administration. What the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) is doing now by searching for illegal arms is admittedly in line with its obligation to provide security for the people and their property. If correctly implemented, it is a programme that could prove good enough to make the South governable and peaceful contrary to the prediction of the enemies, who portray the south as wild and lawless. Indeed this disarmament should have been carried in the second or third year of the CPA since it was known that many arms were in the hands of many citizens to protect themselves from bandits and militias who were bent on looting and killing other citizens whom they (militia) accused of being SPLA supporters (5th column). However, the manner in which the disarmament is being carried out and its timing are irritating, inappropriate and therefore unacceptable. The behaviour of SPLA soldiers who are searching for arms is disgraceful and humiliating to the common citizen who may not posses any arms at all. This programme which should have been of robust objective is now seen by the ordinary person in Collo land as the punishment that was promised by the SPLM candidates who failed the April 2010 elections.
Who would ever conceived that beating the elderly, raping the women, girls and children and also dropping burning candles and plastic bottles on them could be done by their own brothers. The brothers with whom they went through the same liberation struggle and with whom they share the same destiny. The SPLA soldiers did what our expressed and known enemy could not do during the two wars. It is indeed disturbing. To make things worse, all this comes at the time when the people of the South are trying hard to pool themselves together to face the biggest challenge in their history - the referendum of January 2011. Are those responsible for the disarmament aware of the implications of their atrocities on the referendum? If people are being displaced by this disarmament, how will they register for the referendum? If the people are being displaced at this crucial time of the rainy season, how do you expect them to cultivate? Are we not calling for serious starvation and famine next year? If it is genuine disarmament and not punishment, why would that tactics failed and were stopped in other parts of the South being used again in Collo land? These are some of questions that cast doubts about the motive of the disarmament happening to your people in Collo land.
3. Accommodation of SPLA
The way that the SPLA is being put to live together with civilians, in villages, is not a normal practice. The army is usually kept away from civilians for security reasons. Civilians would like be far from the army for their own freedom and other activities, which may not be compatible with the army. In many locations in Collo land there are no clearly defined military quarters. Soldiers are, therefore, living together with civilians. This is one source of friction between the civilian and the army. A related serious issue is the fact that the army, in many parts of Collo land, occupies school buildings, hence preventing the pupils from pursuing their education.
As church leaders who live among the people and listen to what they say, they made the following recommendations to the government of Upper Nile State and the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS), for helping to rectify the situation if indeed implemented:
1. Searching of arms must be stopped immediately in Collo land because of the negative impact already mentioned.
2. Collo land must be declared a disaster area and relief support be mounted immediately.
3. Forming competent committees to investigate the incidents of:
a) Killing of civilians in Collo land such has happened at Anagdyar, Abarnimo and other places
b) Torturing and killing civilians during the disarmament process.
4. Collo members of parliament and other persons who were arrested in relation to the current insecurity situation in Collo land should be taken to a competent court of law or released immediately.
5. The States of Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity governments together with GOSS should set-up a neutral committee to look into land claims and make recommendation for demarcation by competent survey staff as per 1956 maps.
6. Making peace and reconciliation amongst all the tribes involved in the boundary disputes.
7. Army and civilians, in Collo land, should be separated and the schools that are occupied by the army be evacuated immediately so that pupils resume classes.
"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" (Psalms 133:1)
Dr. James Okuk is a concerned Southerner and can be reached at [email protected]