Manyo County calm, but authorities on alert

8 Dec 2011

Manyo County calm, but authorities on alert

6 December 2011 – Following conflicts over the past few months between rebel militia groups (RMGs) and the South Sudanese military, the security situation was now calm in Manyo County, Upper Nile State, according to its commissioner, El Thaib Agang Okiech.

Speaking today in the county headquarters of Wadekona to an UNMISS assessment mission from Malakal, the commissioner said civilians were carrying on with their daily lives, despite recent bombings in Kaka and Kuak towns as well as RMG activity in the Hamra, Magenis and Um Jalala areas of the state.

SPLA Operations Officer Maj. Gen. Samson Mabior Lual said the SPLA had withdrawn from North to South Kuak, and planned to redeploy police who had been dislodged from Kuak during the bombing back to the area.

But the authorities stressed that they were remaining alert in case of future hostilities, either with RMGs or migrating nomads from Sudan.

Commissioner Okiech observed that cattle herders from the north who had migrated to Manyo each year before South Sudanese independence (in July) had good relations with the host community. They had complied this year with the county's request to come without firearms and were allowed to graze their animals in the usual locations.

UNMISS Civil Affairs Officer Joan Tucker said the mission had also spoken with nomad leaders about any uncertainties they had during migration. "We got first-hand information on the good treatment they receive from communities in Manyo county and that they are now moving towards Kaka town ... south of Wadekona."

Meki Osman Meki, deputy chief of the Selaam nomad group, told the mission that his tribe had entered South Sudan in October. Seven Selaam groups had come to Manyo County with their animals, he said, but they had left behind their families this year.

"We stay here in South Sudan for 10 months and spend only two months in Sudan," said Deputy Chief Meki. "What we want from the state is to protect our cattle and we will pay any fee that is required from us."

Other cattle herders in Maban hailed mainly from the Falata and Ruffaa tribes of Sudan's White and Blue Nile states, according to Maban County Commissioner Joshua Wango Amano. Some Falata had decided to remain in the South Sudanese town of Renk after independence, while others had chosen to leave for Sudan.

The Renk Falata group was now moving to Maban for grazing and the SPLA was monitoring their movement, the commissioner said. But he expressed concern about those who had returned to Sudan and would now travel south for grazing land, uncertain of their intentions.

No one would be allowed into South Sudan if they were suspected of hostile aims, said Commissioner Amano.

Ms. Tucker said the UNMISS assessment aimed to follow up on recent border clashes and show concern about issues like migration, security and borders to people on the ground. "People appreciate that we are there."