Civilian disarmament ends in Greater Tonj

18 Oct 2011

Civilian disarmament ends in Greater Tonj

17 October 2011 – Civilian disarmament in Warrap State's Greater Tonj concluded peacefully today, bringing an end to the first or voluntary phase of the government-led campaign in the area.

"We collected almost 800 weapons in our county and the process was peaceful," said Tonj South County Commissioner Akec Tong Aleu. "We do not want these weapons; they caused a lot of violence. Now the population is going to remain in peace."

The weapons were collected by payam (township) administrators and executive chiefs.

Nonetheless, some residents resisted, with some expressing concerns about whether civilians in neighbouring states were also being disarmed, while others lamented the money they had spent on weapons.

"We explained to them that the same disarmament process has been done simultaneously in Lakes and Unity State," said Joseph Akem Baak, a community leader from Greater Tonj.

"Another objection regarded the fact that most of them spent a lot of money to buy the gun, but the only correct answer is that it is illegal to own a weapon."

Andrea Machol ofAgogo payam said he was happy with the disarmament exercise.

"We are enjoying the disarmament. Now we can sleep at night; we can go in the bush without fear. Giving back the weapon is an action that will bring us lasting peace."

In September, the state government-led disarmament exercise began with a sensitization and awareness campaign at the payam level.

"The community leaders and I went directly to talk to the community in every payam to explain the reason of the disarmament and how to give back their arms voluntarily," explained Commissioner Aleu.

Civil Affairs Officer Federica Russo said UNMISS had monitored the first phase and would continue monitoring the second one.

"In this second phase, the South Sudan Police Service, with the supervision of the SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army), will inspect villages to make sure there are no hidden weapons," said Ms. Russo.

During a visit to Lakes State on 14 October, UNMISS Head of Mission Hilde Johnson said the UN was ready to offer support. "Disarmament is a pre-condition for peace, security, stability and delivery of much-needed social services to the population," she said.

Civilian disarmament is set to begin in the state's Greater Gogrial area on 19 October.