When the weapons are gone

3 Sep 2012

When the weapons are gone

As civilian disarmament in South Sudan's Jonglei State pushes into its second month, residents are crying out for more security to protect them from those who still have guns.

"The SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army) disarmed people and left them helpless," said Abraham Makur, coordinator of Jonglei civil society organizations. "Criminals are moving day and night (stealing)."

Military and police units should be available in every county and payam (district) to ensure maximum protection, Mr. Makur said.

Anyidi, Kolnyang, Makuach, Werkok and Jale payams (districts) were areas reported to have experienced robberies both day and night.

SPLA Captain Philip Bol Akuei, a member of the team that oversaw disarmament in Anyidi village, said reports of unknown attackers often reached him. But he said poor roads made rescuing victims difficult, even though the SPLA was on high alert.

He added that the army would soon be well-equipped and able to respond swiftly to such threats, enabling civilians to return to villages and cultivate their farms.

The SPLA head of the observer team for Jonglei disarmament, Major Michael Kon, said his soldiers would strive to secure all counties statewide if locals fed them with timely reports.

"If...anybody is still threatening any party after this disarmament, then that will be... the SPLA's responsibility," Mr. Kon said.

Jonglei Governor Kuol Manyang said the state had actually witnessed a decline in cattle rustling incidents, thanks to civilian disarmament and establishment of a buffer zone.

The SPLA-manned buffer zone, which had been created between the Murle and Lou Nuer communities, stretched from Pibor County to Pochalla, Akobo, Uror, Bor South, Nyirol, Twic East, Akobo and Duk, the governor said.

Civil society coordinator Makur lamented that deployment of security personnel in the buffer zone was slow. "I have seen only a few soldiers deployed in a few locations," said Mr. Makur. "That is not the kind of buffer zone we mean. We need full deployment from one community to another."

Governor Manyang promised that the situation would improve. "We have already sent 90 armed personnel to Boma (Bor South County) and 90 to Pochalla (County)," he said. "This is an ongoing effort to secure the people."

Matthew Youl Lam, deputy director of the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission for Jonglei State, said that increased security would allow his organization to change its goals.

"After all guns are collected, the communities (will be) safe," Mr. Lam said. "We will not ... focus so much on emergency response, but on development instead."

Governor Manyang said residents displaced by insecurity should go back home to farm, adding that the county had purchased 18 tractors for the year -- nine for Uror County farmers and nine for Bor.

"Jonglei State has fertile soils good enough to produce the food we want," Mr. Manyang said. "All people should engage in farming because there is security in place now."

Some 10,000 firearms had been collected in Bor South, Twic East, Duk, Ayod, Uror, and Nyirol counties, according to Governor Manyang. The SPLA were currently in Fangak and Khorflus counties and would soon proceed to Pibor and Akobo.