Tonj community urge peaceful measures after deadly clashes

Community leaders of the greater Tonj in the South Sudan’s State of Warrap have appealed for peaceful measures as a way to defuse tension and halt violence against armed civilians in Tonj north county where armed confrontation had claimed several lives and destroyed properties.

Several houses were also set ablaze, resulting in the displacement of the local population after an armed youth group overrun a military camp in the area on Saturday and Sunday.

Top military officers, including the chief of the military intelligence and the chief of the operations of the government forces, were killed when armed civilians overrun the military camp in which cattle raided from a neigbouring community were kept after they were recovered.

A statement from a newly elected Tonj community leadership led by the former governor of Warrap state, Lewis Anei Kuendit, expressed profound sorrow and deep regret for what he described as an unfortunate fight pitting a unit of the government forces against armed civil youths of Awan-Parek in Rualbet payam area of Tonj North County in Warrap State.

“I take this opportunity on behalf of the people of Tonj in Juba, to convey my deep sorrow and condolence to all the families bereaved on both sides as a result of that armed confrontation”, partly reads the statement issued to the public on June 27, 2022.

The statement condemned all those who triggered such a disastrous situation and appealed for the claim, requesting restraint and de-escalation of the situation on both sides.

“I appeal for dialogue through civil engagement as the Awan-Parek civil Community is supposed to be given the opportunity to address State government demands in their area.

Awan-Parek local chiefs should be released from detention in Kuajok to return to Awan in order to participate in retrieving the alleged 39 looted cows of Arop-Majiec, surrendering the Military equipment the civilians may have taken during the reported battle. The wanted criminals must be identified and handed over to the police authorities”, explained Kuendit.

The new community leader also appealed to President Salva Kiir to not allow the community to be destroyed by the force of the government in revenge for the forces killed when the military camp was overrun by armed civilians protesting the recovery of the stolen cattle.

“I appeal to our President of the Republic, SSPDF c-in-c not to kindly allow the Community of Awan-Parek to be destroyed by the government forces as the ongoing Military moves seem to suggest on the ground. I also appeal to our President to create a conducive political atmosphere for Awan, Tonj, and Warrap Community leaders in towns to participate in solving this critical situation in Awan-Parek, Tonj North, and the rest of Tonj”, requested Kuendit.

He rejected voices criticizing the conduct of the election of Tonj Community Leader in Juba a day after the disaster, saying preparations were way ahead and the necessity for the people of Tonj to have a legitimate mouthpiece to speak and stand for their affairs

“As for those criticizing why the election of Tonj Community Leader in Juba was conducted a day after the disaster, it was necessary for the people of Tonj to have a legitimate mouthpiece to speak and stand for their affairs. Moreover, the meeting of the General Assembly was earlier scheduled for that day and there was no way to push the General Assembly Meeting to another day as getting spacious Halls accommodating a General Assembly are not easily found nowadays. Critics must know that Tonj Community Leader seriously expressed sorrows for what happened in Rualbet right at the opening”, concluded the statement.

Conflict and insecurity in South Sudan are usually given different levels of interpretation. Some are associated with civil war and would indicate that a substantial collapse in state authority is underway. Yet the government in Juba endures, and the political bargain holding together the various military, security, and rebel factions since 2018 has mostly held during this surge in violence

Academics and analysts are keen to underscore that the violent conflicts around the Tonj area are complicated, with violence among irregular militias giving way to more organized violence conducted by elites at the top of the pyramid in Juba. Clashes within Tonj North operate at two levels, with the interest of elites often based in Juba permeating through these levels.

In the first of these levels, the Kuachthii and Akop sections of the Rek Dinka have engaged in raids and attacks against one another. In the second level, existing feuds within the Kuachthii specifically between the Ajak-Leer and Noi sub-sections and Akop particularly Apuk Padoc and Awan-Parek sub-sections, have entrenched violence in parts of the county.

These conflicts have the outward appearance of being driven by disputes over the use of grazing land, administrative boundaries, and the acquisition of cattle, and invariably spark revenge attacks by the community targeted over these matters.

These conflicts are mirrored in eastern parts of Tonj South County, involving the Muok, Thony, and Apuk Jurwiir sections. Violence has also clustered in and around Tonj town, while occasional reports of cross-border raids from Tonj South into Tonj North emerge.

Source: Sudan Tribune