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JUBA - 17 May 2021

CEPO warns of looming ethnic cleansing in greater Jonglei

The advocacy outfit, Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), has warned of looming 'genocide' in South Sudan’s Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) as inter-communal clashes escalate there.

Clashes have been ongoing in GPAA’s Likuangole and Gumuruk counties between Pibor youth and their Jonglei counterparts since Friday, May 7. The motive of the clashes which erupted after attacks by the Jonglei youth groups is unclear. 

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj Saturday, Edmund Yakani, CEPO’s Executive Director, condemned the ongoing clashes and warned of a looming genocide as communities fight without government intervention. 

“I seriously condemn that act in the sense that it is a Juba politically motivated tension by political elites from those communities. The mobilization is done in the presence of security apparatus, bullet supplies are constant, and weapons used are modern. So, where is the state in this particular game? For me, I call it genocide. It is no longer inter-communal violence,” Yakani said. 

He called upon President Salva Kiir to expeditiously intervene. 

“If you remember the last conclusion of the Jonglei conference, the president told the communities that 'this is the last time I am intervening in your crisis.' Now, those words have complicated the response to the situation of violence in Jonglei. So, I am appealing to the president to ensure that the state institutions respond to this situation immediately,” he added.

Yakani compared the violence to what happened in Rwanda in 1994 and implored the international community to step in. 

“To the international community and the South Sudanese, what is happening now is a small Rwanda genocide in the making. And we should not keep quiet,” Yakani said. “So, I think it is also high time and I am calling on the new SRSG and UNMISS head to ensure that a quick civilian protection response is done to the situation of greater Jonglei.”

In June last year, President Salva Kiir named Vice President Wani Igga as head of a committee tasked with resolving greater Jonglei conflicts following months of violence involving members of the Dinka, Nuer, and Murle communities. 

The violence, which continued in parts of GPAA and Jonglei State between February and August last year, left hundreds dead and villages torched. 

In January, the committee brought together the warring communities at a conference in Juba and the participants resolved to end violence, return abducted children, establish a buffer zone, and punish those found violating the truce. 

Daniel Abuca Ali, who served as the committee’s mouthpiece, said they are aware of the ongoing violence but are unable to intervene because their mandate expired. 

“Our mandate expired last week after presenting the final resolutions of the conference to the president. We are well informed but do not have the mandate to intervene,” Abuca said.

For his part, Ateny Wek Ateny, the presidential spokesperson, blamed the renewed clashes on greater Jonglei community leaders but said the president will intervene. 

Reminded that President Kiir promised not to intervene in Jonglei inter-communal warring, Ateny said, “The president was taken out of context in that regard. How can he not intervene, and he is the Commander-in-Chief of all the forces? What he meant was that if the communities choose to fight then they may overwhelm the country.”