Wau — The governor of Western Bahr el Ghazal, Rizik Zachariah Hassan on Thursday toured Wau town, perhaps to dispel rumors he had been suspended from his position over the deteriorating security situation in the state.
At least 12 people, eyewitnesses told Sudan Tribune, died Wednesday when hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Wau to protest the 8 December killing of nearly 25 civilians in Parajallah, located 48 miles outside Wau town.
The protest follows the state's council of ministers' decision to transfer Wau county headquarters, a move rejected by the population. The decision also prompted Peter Miskin, the former commissioner of Wau to resign his post.
South Sudan's deputy minister of interior, Salva Mathok Gengdit said he received reports indicating seven people lost lives during the protests with 32 wounded, while 12 people, according state senior officers who visited these areas Tuesday, reportedly died.
However, state government officials have remained silent over the matter, preferring not to divulge details on casualties involved in these protests.
On Wednesday, members from the Balanda tribe, also known as Fartit community, allegedly rejoiced over reports claiming the state governor has been suspended to pave way for investigations into the killing of innocent civilians.
The governor, on Thursday, made a public appearance in a heavily guarded convoy and disputed the rumours over his alleged suspension.
Hassan, in a rather show of solidarity with the people, instead urged security organs to increase patrols in residential areas and assured the population of adequate security.
"You must all do possible to control this situation and protect properties of our people," he told security forces, including South Sudan army (SPLA).
The governor, flanked by the deputy interior minister, also visited civilians camped at the United Nations compound in the state, and pledged government support to protect innocent civilians.
Thousands of civilians, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said, fled the violence in Wau on Wednesday and have camped at the UN base in the area.
"A significant number of civilians, mainly women, children and the elderly, remain in the UN base and continue to be protected," Eduardo Del Buey, the deputy spokesperson for the UN Secretary General said Thursday.
The state minister for information and communications, in a separate interview, also dismissed speculations over the governor suspension, describing it as "telephone reports".
"This is not correct. There is nothing like that. They are just telephone reports. Nobody has suspended the governor. You have seen him touring the town today, Minister of information and communications", Derik Alfred Uya told Sudan Tribune Thursday.
The deputy interior minister, on the other hand, urged the population to return to their houses, adding that government remains in control of the situation.
"There should be fear. You have to return to your houses. Security is being provided, as it is the responsibility of the government to do so. Forces have now been deployed to provide and maintain stability and peace within and around Wau town", he assured civilians outside UN camp in Wau on Thursday.
Gengdit further said more security personnel from other states would be deployed in Wau to boost the 300 extra auxiliary police currently on the ground.
"Only security forces are allowed on the streets so as to prevent revenge attacks," the deputy interior minister told Sudan Tribune.
We have stopped movement of people until we see the situation returns to normal. People should not randomly leave their homes until further notice because there are still people who are trying to provoke the situation, he added.
The UN on Thursday announced plans to deploy more peacekeepers in Wau, to calm a situation, it described as "tense".