January 26, 2014 (SSNA) — We have been observing and witnessing with great dismay the unfortunate violence that has broken out in Juba on 15th December 2013 and spread to Bor, Bentieu, Malakal and other parts of the Republic of South Sudan. The deadly and devastating events awed the population and International Community at large.
It is unbelievable that, we, the South Sudanese and specially our leaders failed to resolve the SPLM party’s internal conflicts without invoking tribal armed violence in only less than three years since the declaration of independence on 9thJuly, 2011. It is disgusting that the image of the promising South Sudan has been tarnished in a very short span and it will take more time to rehabilitate it.
We believe that the true leadership involves sacrifice and putting the interest of the nations ahead of personal greed for wealth and power. What should matter is what a leader does in the common good of his country but not what the country must do to satisfy selfish desires of a leader.
In the events following the aborted coup by Dr. Riek Machar and his followers, Malakal, the capital city of Upper Nile State, became a devastating violence field for the show of force and power by the rivaling parties. Caught unaware by the militant behavior, the innocent civilians in Malakal found themselves paying expensive prices when armed forces belonging to Dr. Riek Machar attacked and took over the city on 24th – 29th December 2013. Many civilians got killed and others got displaced to the UNMISS compound. Shops, houses and other valuable properties were looted too while the Governor and other VIPs of his government were not seen anywhere in the city. Later, the SPLA came back to take over the city. Again lives were lost in the crossfire and more properties got destroyed. Relative calm and order was restored until the second week of the year 2014.
But again on 18 – 23 January 2014, the governor and his government together with SPLA and its forces abandoned Malakal as the rebel forces of Dr. Riek Machar regrouped to mount a second attack on the city. Since there was nothing left in the shops and government offices in the city, the rebels decided to go from house to house, looting and killing whoever they think has money, knowledge and power and hailing from ethnic groups who are Non-Nuer. Women were not spared as many of them easily became prey for raping. And since Malakal is predominantly a Collo (Shilluk) inhabited capital city, it became clear that the businessmen, the intellectuals and the women who were killed, looted and raped hailed from this third largest ethnic group in South Sudan. The survivors ran for their dear lives and dignity and took refuge in Churches, Hospitals and UNMISS compound until the SPLA came back to retake the city on 23th January 2014.
Nonetheless, with the second entry of the SPLA and the Government leaders into Malakal, gunshots stopped but not the looting, killings and house-to-house searches and hunger. The fear has totally entered into the civilians’ hearts as they find it hard to trust whoever carries a gun. Life has come to a standstill and no hope is left except prayers for quick humanitarian intervention to save the remaining breath of life in the survivors. They don’t want to hear about Governor Simon Kun Puoch and his rotten government. They don’t want to hear about Lt. General Johnson Gon Bilieu and his betrayal SPLA unruly elements. They want to see new faces who have not been involved in the betrayal tactics used by the uncouth Nuer elements who were pretending all along that they were the only favorite leaders of Upper Nile State.
With this painful apocalyptic episode, we, the Collo (Shilluk) Youth would like to condemn in the strongest terms possible the aborted coup that would have overthrown by military means a democratically elected President for the Republic of South Sudan and his entire government. We are outraged by the level of destruction in Malakal and the well planned heinous acts against peace loving Collo Community over there. The history of Collo victimization goes back to Mahdist regimes in the Sudan (the Ansars’ wars against Fashoda Kingdom), followed by subsequent oppressive governments in the Sudan and culminating in the worst scenario of marginalization, humiliation and frustration of Collo people by the current government of South Sudan.
The policy of displacement of Collo by military force has been witnessed in the esteemed Kingdom’s villages, which were occupied by some Dinka or Nuer shameless elements in a manner implicitly supported by the Government in Juba, Bor and Malakal. The dead of Collo were not allowed to be buried in their ancestors’ lands on the east banks of both Sobat and White Nile rivers. A fresh example is the latest events in Malakal aimed to destroy what is left from eight years of disgraceful destruction of Collo’s social and economic fabric. This policy must stop if sustainable peace has to come to Upper Nile State.
We fully support the current IGAD mediated agreement on cessation of hostilities and call for urgent humanitarian assistance to the suffering civilians in Malakal and the villages around it. It is a first step toward sustainable and lasting peace in South Sudan. But we call upon H.E. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, the IGAD and the International Community to ensure that the following demands are fulfilled as soon as possible:
1. Hold Governor Simon Kun Puoch of Upper Nile State responsible for the destructive events in Malakal because it is his militia that started the rebellion inside the city in order to loot and burn the Collo businessmen’s shops and kill in a cold blood some of them afterward in their homes. Declaring the state of emergency in Upper Nile State was a right step forward constitutionally but it should have been accompanied by the automatic dismissal of the Governor and his entire cabinet.
2. Denounce the biased stance of Lt. Gen. Johnson Gony Belieu, the Sector Commander of Upper Nile because he failed to protect the civilians against the armed looters, killers and rapers. Instead he was seen protecting the rebels and the criminals from his Nuer Community, and allowing them to escape without being pursued and brought to book.
3. The Ministry of Interior and Wild Life Reservation in Juba to bring to book as soon as possible the internal rebellion leader in Malakal, Major Sayed Suliman Yassin, James Chuol Puot (Mayor of Malakal City) and other wrong elements in the Organized Forces who were committing serious human rights atrocities in Upper Nile State. Major Sayed has been seen riding with a Police Commissioner flag as he was leading the White Army members in a house-to-house looting and killing of businesspersons who were found with no properties to handover to the rebels. He was also in command of the rebels who broke into the Central Bank of South Sudan, Malakal branch. Also he released from prison the serial killers who caused terror in Malakal before the events and were waiting for execution after their legal conviction. Mayor Puot has been seen shifting conflicting roles during the nasty events. At one point in time he has joined the rebels and was seen leading them in house-to-house atrocities inside Malakal. But surprising enough Mr. Puot was called back by Governor Pouch ungraciously to continue as a Mayor despite all the shameful acts.
4. Government in Juba to provide arms and uniform to “Collo People Defense Forces” like what is done in Greater Equatoria and Bhar El Ghazal, where old men and young male are registered, given uniform and arms to defend their respective states and territories from the rebels and their heinous atrocities. The Collo as law-abiding community have the ability to keep the Upper Nile State clear of outlaws and forces of evil.
5. The President of the Republic of South Sudan to appoint a new Governor for Upper Nile State, who can put the interest and security of civil population as a priority and who can be trusted by the civilians. The new emergency governor should not hail from Nuer or Dinka ethnic groups.
6. The national government in Juba is urged to change its policy of exclusion of Collo in management of the affairs of Upper Nile State. Absence of Collo elite in the senior positions both military, organized forces and civil service at the national and Upper Nile state level, has created vacuum and imbalance of power and can be one of the causes in the current political unrest in the country. In fact, the current events in Upper Nile State could have been prevented if sons and daughters of Collo were not intentionally removed from the SPLA, the National Security and all other Organized Forces at the national and states levels. However, it is evident now that the contribution of Collo is paramount. It is Collo sons who chased the rebels out of Malakal, Kodok, Kaka, etc.
7. The national government is urged to respect the 1st January 1956 borders and embark on States and Counties demarcations to avoid the current border clashes. Collo, as a civilized society, law-abiding community, and peace loving people, will always remain if they are left in peace, without attempts from the neighboring communities to encroach on Collo land and properties.
8. The United Nations, African Union and IGAD to task an independent high investigation committee to probe into the mass killings of civilians in Juba, Bor, Akobo, Benieu, Malakal and other parts of South Sudan where atrocities of human rights violations have been committed.
“If God is with us who can be against us!”
Signed by: Joseph Zakaria Gubek on Behalf of Collo Youth in South Sudan and Diaspora