Wau — The governors of the Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal as well as Warrap State on Tuesday called on their citizens and friends to denounce vandalism as well as tribal politics and accept importance of peaceful coexistence.
The leaders made the remarks at a public rally held on the eastern bank of Wau town, capital of Western Bahr el Ghazal State. The gathering was called after youth from the three states of took to the streets of the state capital on December 17, protesting against the alleged killing of more than 26 innocent civilians in Parajallah locality, some 48 miles outside Wau town.
The motives for the killings remain unclear although authorities have arrested a number of people including traditional leaders from the area suspected to have known about the deaths. Parajallah is under Bagari locality, a proposed location for Wau county headquarters in Western Bahr el Ghazal State.
The area is inhabited by the Balanda ethnic group, a community also known in the state as "Fartit" and whose youth groups and intellectuals have expressed dissatisfaction with state cabinet's decision instructing ex-commissioner, John Peter Miskin, to relocate the headquarters of Wau County in October. Miskin rejected administrative instruction and resigned from his position.
Miskin's rejection and resignation generated a subsequent protests, which saw youth create roadblocks on the roads leading out of Wau town. When the army attempted to remove the roadblocks on Saturday 8 December some protestors lost their lives when demonstrating against the removal of the roadblocks.
More people were killed when people demonstrated against the incident in Wau town on Sunday 9 December. The state government has admitted that eight lives were lost in the protest, which it said was unauthorized. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) initially put the death toll at 10, before revising that down to nine. Former Wau County Commissioner John Peter Miskin has claimed 25 people were killed and 21 others sustained injuries.
The killings have attracted the attentions from local and international human right organizations as well as civil right institutions.
A police station at Jebel Kheir in Wau town was burned down to ashes, 53 commercial trucks were set ablaze and three major roads leading to Western Equatoria State as well as other areas in the state, including roads to Bagari and Raja County were blocked by protesters.
Officials claimed youth started to be aggressive on 8 December and continued on December 9 in Wau town and its surrounding areas, limiting the movement to the town.
While the protest in Wau have been the focus of attention, Western Bahr el Ghazal's minister of information and communications, Derik Alfred Uya, said his government received information on 10 December, two days after the protest, that 26 people were killed in Parajallah.
However, it was not clear who were involved and why until a survivor appeared on 11 December.
"We received the information that some people were killed in Parrajallah but we did not know their full identity and who were involved until when a survivor from [the] Dinka community in Warrap came and narrated the whole story", Uya said on Tuesday.
A government committee sent to verify the claims found the dead bodies, Uya said.
"Some were decomposing, others were cut into slices. Heads were cut off but they were able to bring 6 bodies. They are now in the mortuary in the hospital. Based on the information from the survivor and which the chief has confirmed, the government decided to arrest some suspects to help in the investigation", Uya explained.
In response to the situation, the Governor of Warrap State, Nyandeng Malek Deliech on Monday visited Wau town with a parliamentary committee to hold a series of meetings with the citizens and government officials from Western Bahr el Ghazal.
Malek also met and held talks with Western Bahr el Ghazal State Governor, Rizik Zachariah Hassan. The two governors received calls from President Salva Kiir to hold public rallies with the citizens from the affected states and reportedly instructed Lakes and Northern Bahr el Ghazal to send their representatives to participate in the sensitization of their people to restrain from violent.
"We fully understand your concerns but we would like you to remain calm, maintain peace and continue to live with your neighbors like before. Peaceful coexistence is very important. Leave this to the government to handle it" Governor Nyandeng Malek told the gathering on Tuesday in Wau.
Western Bahr el Ghazal's Governor, Rizik Zachariah Hassan, said his government has formed a committee to investigate the killing and will ensure that those involved are identified and brought to book promptly. Hassan urged citizens from the affected states not to seek revenge because this would only serve the interests of people who he said had hidden agenda to destabilize not only his government but also the whole country.
"Do not revenge. Just leave it to us. We will work to ensure that people behind this are identified", Hassan asked.
The head of the Warrap State Parliamentary committee tasked by the house to investigate the incident, Dominic Deng Mayom, said his committee is working in collaboration with other committees from Western Bahr el Ghazal State and member of the National Legislative Assembly as well as independent human right institutions and organization involved in the investigation processes.
Mayom said killing was a major tragedy but called on citizens to remain calm and give the state government a chance to establish the truth. He said the incident was separate from the protest in which youth from Balanda ethnic group opposed the relocation of Wau county headquarters last week.
"This is a separate incident from the protest. It has no connection with claims about headquarters because the people who have been killed do not come from Western Bahr el Gazal. So we do not understand the motive. I think there are people with hidden agenda somewhere. It is a plot", he said.
Mayom commended Western Bahr el Ghazal State government for having identified and arrested key suspects who he claimed received the information about the attack prior to the incident and decided to keep quiet.
"The arrests were made to establish the truth. Our people want to know why youth collected innocent casual workers on farms including hunters and fishermen to kill them," Mayom told Sudan Tribune in an interview on Tuesday.