Pochalla County calls for protection

7 Apr 2012

Pochalla County calls for protection

5 April 2012 - Pointing to frequent criminal attacks and abductions in Pochalla County, Jonglei State, local officials called today on the South Sudanese government to deploy sufficient forces there to protect civilians.

Communities were repeatedly complaining to the county administration about frequent attacks, Pochalla Commissioner Joseph Okello told an UNMISS team visiting the county to monitor civilian disarmament, which began in the county on 27 March.

The shooting attacks had continued despite the presence of a Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) battalion (over 170 SPLA soldiers) in the area to protect civilians during disarmament, the commissioner said.

On 3 April, armed men from the Murle community had attacked Otalo village in the county's Adongo payam, he said. "Armed men attacked the village and tried to abduct six children, who were rescued later on by SPLA soldiers around the payam."

Commissioner Okello also noted that many SPLA soldiers were complaining of inadequate logistics, medication and food, and he urged the government to address the problem.

"We need the government to understand the problem and ... quickly intervene," he said. "If there are not enough soldiers to deploy to the ground, it would be better if the number of police we have be increased ... to help this community."

As they had recently moved on to another area, SPLA officials were unavailable for comment.

County Executive Director John Juac Kuir also stressed that more forces were needed on the ground. "The communities are very scared ... We have seen many attacks before and during this (disarmament) exercise and we want to stop them."

Pocalla town residents Balimi Alilgo and Roda Obang similarly called on the government to help stop child abductions and provide security for the area.

While abductions and shootings had become frequent, civilian disarmament itself was proceeding peacefully and without incident, Commissioner Okello said. So far, the county had collected over 200 guns and the exercise was continuing in its five payams (districts).

One of the 11 counties of Jonglei State, Pochalla is predominantly inhabited by the Anyuak ethnic group. The county borders the Gambella region of Ethiopia.