12 December 2012

South Sudan: Western Bahr El Ghazal Governor Denies Deaths, Pledges Dialogue Over Wau County Dispute

Al Jazeera has received new pictures of what appears to be South Sudanese soldiers firing on a crowd of unarmed demonstrators in the northwest of ... ( Resource: Protesters Shot at by South Sudanese Army )

Juba — The Governor of South Sudan's Western Bahr el Ghazal State, Rizik Zachariah Hassan, contradicted his Minister of Information and Communications on Monday maintaining that no people have died in recent clashes between protestors and police in Wau County.

Minister Derik Alfred Uya said Monday that eight people had died in a dispute arising from the state cabinet's decision to transfer Wau County headquarters to its original place in Bagari, some 12 miles south west of Wau town.

Uya did not give figures for the number of wounded in the clashes but multiple medical sources told Sudan Tribune on Monday that 21 people wounded in the clash have been admitted to Wau Teaching Hospital.

Governor Hassan pledged the commitment of his administration to peacefully resolve the dispute but describes reports that ten people have died, quoting a UN spokesperson in Juba, as "unverified".

While the United Nations has reported that 10 people have died, a former Wau County Commissioner has put the death toll at 25. South Sudan's army also say that no one has been killed.

The Governor said Tuesday that he has formed a nine-member committee headed by his security advisor, Rizik Dominic Samuel, to conduct an investigation into the incident and report to him within 72 hours.

"I want to take this opportunity so that I can talk to our people, the people who have gone to the street, those protesting decision of the cabinet, that the state government remains open for peaceful dialogue", Hassan told Sudan Tribune on Monday from Wau, capital of the state.

He called on the state's youth to join him in the projects of state building and avoid negative feelings against cabinet decision aiming at taking services to the rural areas to reduce urban migration.

"We have come too far on this journey to weigh ourselves down with pettiness, intolerance and negativity. It is time we work together as people and as government", he added.

Eyewitnesses said security forces on Sunday and Monday flooded Wau town in attempt to secure the city after more than 2,000 people, mostly young people clashed with security forces. The opposing sides still wrangle over the need to accept dialogue and work together as citizens and government.

Sources in Wau say at least 5,000 SPLA forces are out in force in Wau town and surrounding areas of Baggari, with soldiers manning road blocks and monitoring key intersections to prevent further demonstrations. Police and security officers sealed off streets to the disputed area searched cars and enforced an order banning unlawful assembly. No rallies or unrest were reported on Monday and Tuesday.

State Security Advisor, Rizik Dominic Samuel said the governor has called on youth to come for negotiations with the state administration in order to allow peace and stability in the area.

"The governor has asked those carrying guns and treating people using roads to stop their activities and accept coming together and sit on the table. We believe in dialogue as way to resolve differences. The state authorities have now sat with religious leaders both Christians and Muslims to intervene", Samuel explained on Tuesday.

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