Vice-President Machar links development to disarmament
1 April 2012 --The commissioners of three counties in western Jonglei State today told a high-level delegation led by Vice President Riek Machar that over 1,700 firearms have been surrendered since a civilian disarmament exercise began nearly three weeks ago.
Accompanied by Jonglei Governor Kuol Manyang Juuk, national and state legislative assembly members, UNMISS staff members and his wife Angelina Teny, Vice President Machar visited Duk, Twic East and Ayod counties.
He repeatedly drew a link between a successful disarmament campaign and the promotion of economic development throughout the state.
"We need you to hand over all your guns to the government forces who are collecting them now throughout the state," said the Vice President. "If we want to continue as a free nation and if we want to see development, then we must stop fighting among ourselves."
Ayod County Commissioner James Mawic Makuac told the delegation that 420 guns had been collected to date from three payams and expected the handover of more weapons from the two remaining payams of Mogok and Payil.
Local government officials and chiefs voiced worries about their security after giving up their arms and noted that livestock raids are continuing to occur amidst the ongoing disarmament campaign.
In Duk County where 270 firearms have been collected since mid-March, Commissioner Elega Mochnom said that armed men believed to be from the Murle ethnic group attacked a cattle camp in the village of Pajut and stole 200 goats.
"There are still fears among the community about the security," said Mr. Mochnom. "We hope the government will deploy enough forces to protect the people."
In a similar vein, Twic East County Commissioner Dau Akoi spoke of attacks on two cattle camps on 28 and 29 March that resulted in the theft of nearly 150 cows.
"These incidents indicated that our people need enough security forces on the ground," said Mr. Akoi, who also informed the delegation that 1,077 firearms had been handed over by Twic East residents thus far.
Vice President Machar and Governor Manyang acknowledged the concerns of local residents and pledged to redouble government efforts to improve their security in the aftermath of the ongoing disarmament campaign.
"There is no way for the civilian population to take responsibility of their own security," said Mr. Machar. "We as government can assure you that we will protect you, and your security is our responsibility."
"We understand your concerns but this process is a statewide process, and no one will remain with his guns," said Governor Manyang. "The government has decided to continue the process until Jonglei becomes free of guns forever."
Vice President Machar also mentioned an upcoming Jonglei peace summit that will be held in the state capital of Bor. That conference will be preceded by a series of county-level meetings across the state to choose delegates who will attend the summit.
"The community will discuss in-depth what was happening previously, why it was happening and try to find a lasting solution for the persistent problems that are affecting everybody in the state," he added.