Pieri residents want SPLA to stay

28 Mar 2012

Pieri residents want SPLA to stay

27 March 2012 – Residents of Pieri payam in the Jonglei State county of Uror are urging the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) to remain in their area after the current civilian disarmament campaign ends.

One hundred guns have been voluntarily surrendered by the population of Pieri since the exercise began there on 19 March, according to the payam's administrator Peter Gatkuoth Gatwech.

Members of an UNMISS integrated monitoring team who visited the payam today witnessed the handover of five AK-47 assault rifles.

"Since the decree for civilian disarmament was issued by the government, the youths are disarming," said Mr. Gatwech, adding that 95 of the collected guns have been transferred to the Uror County seat of Yuai for secure storage.

He said that the disarmament process to date has been going through local chiefs, who receive the firearms from youths and deliver them to him and other officials.

Pieri was among a number of predominantly Lou Nuer communities in Uror County that were targeted by Murle raiders last August. An estimated 600 people died in those attacks.

The loss of life has prompted calls from local residents for SPLA troops to maintain a presence after the disarmament campaign ends.

The payam administrator said about 170 SPLA troops are currently deployed in Pieri along with 15 South Sudan Police Service officers.

"The main concern of our people and youths is what will be their fate after disarmament," said Mr. Gatwech.

"All we want from the government is full deployment of the SPLA here, and if they don't want to be in the town they should be deployed at the (county) boundary or set up a buffer zone," he added.

Local chiefs thanked the SPLA for having recovered 500 cattle that were stolen during a raid on the Uror County village of Paluony on 23 March. They too urged the South Sudanese military to remain in the payam for the foreseeable future.

"If the SPLA stays here, we will have stability," said a chief from the nearby payam of Jlokrial who declined to give his name for security reasons. "People who fled will return and development will come."