The delegation of South Sudan Democratic Forum Party that went to Waat to investigate the fighting which took place between the White Army of Uror County and the SPLA in early February discovered that the fighting was instigated by the governor of Jonglei State and Major Gen. George Athor.
On Feb 5, 2006, Governor Philip Thon was quoted by Sudan Radio journalist who went to Bor town by saying, “I have already ordered Abraham Jongror who is the head of SPLA in Jonglei to start disarming the civilians”. As the result, Maj. Gen. George Athor mobilized 3,000 SPLA forces and ordered them to go to Uror County to disarm White Army allied to SSDF. The SPLA forces were under the command of Maj. Gen. Wurnyang Garkek, a well known spiritual leader of Jonglei State.
In their arrival, the SPLA told the White Army to surrender their weapons. The commander of the White Army refused. Gen. Wurnyang ordered his forces to attack. The fighting lasted for seven hours. As a result three SPLA generals including Wurnyang were killed. SPLA lost more than 300 soldiers. The whereabouts of the rest is still unknown.
On Feb 6, the vice-president of the South Sudan Government, Dr. Riek Machar flew to Waat to talk to Lou-Nuer chiefs to stop fighting. Riek Machar was given preconditions by the chiefs who demanded the resignation of Philip Thon and the arrest of George Athor before Jonglei State enjoys any stability. The chiefs questioned the motive of disarmament because Riek Machar said that it was neither him nor President Salva Kiir who ordered the disarmament. The chiefs argued that if the disarmament was not ordered by the government of South Sudan, then Philip Thon and George Athor have hidden agenda to instigate conflict between the Nuer and the SPLA. Maj. Gen. George Athor massacred 1500 Nuer civilians in Baliet in 1993. He is a well known war criminal who is hated by the Nuer civil society for his killing of civilians during factional wars between Riek and Garang.
On Feb 8, the delegation of South Sudan Democratic Forum and SSDF generals met with Vice-president Riek Machar in Juba to discuss the instability in Jonglei State. The Democratic Forum and the SSDF demanded the arrest of George Athor to face justice for the death of innocent people. Moreover, the Democratic Forum demanded the compensation of those who lost their loved ones and for the government of the South to set up a commission that would facilitate reconciliation between Nuer and Dinka of Jonglei State.
In his turn, Dr. Riek Machar stated that Gen. George Athor disappeared and the SPLA has no information about his whereabouts. The SSDF officers, who signed Juba Declaration with the SPLA on January 9, told Machar that they would look for George Athor wherever he is hiding and bring him to justice dead or alive. He is believed to escape to Upper Nile forests with his bodyguards.
The Democratic Forum also found out that Governor Philip Thon, George Athor and other Garang’s loyalists are against Juba Declaration. Gen. George Athor is angry with Salva Kiir for accepting the demands of SSDF and make Lt. Gen. Paulino Matip Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the New SPLA Army. He said publicly that “he cannot accept receiving orders from Matip who is Nyagat’’.
The Democratic Forum therefore demands the resignation of Governor Philip Thon without preconditions as clearly stated by Lou-Nuer Chiefs. If the governor does not resign voluntarily, President Kiir must intervene and order him to do so. The people of South Sudan want unity in this critical juncture in their search for stability that would bring about development. We cannot afford the dismantlement of Juba Declaration by Garang’s loyalists who are dreaming of coming back to power after the death of their leader. The incident of Uror County will slow down implementation of Juba Declaration. However, Salva Kiir can save the historic declaration by firing Philip Thon and all Garang’s loyalists who are against peace in the South.
The people of South Sudan are calling Salva Kiir to protect the CPA from Garang’s loyalists who are now in bed with Bashir to undermine South Sudan government. The people of South Sudan did not take up arms to be ruled by war criminals who killed Majier Gai, Lokurnyang Lado, etc, but to achieve the right to self-determination so that the coming generations live in tranquility.
G. Buay Reath
Chairman of South Sudan Democratic Forum-Canada