23 December 2012

South Sudan: Wau Steps Up Security for Kiir's Christmas Visit

Wau — Western Bahr el Ghazal State imposed a curfew and stepped up security in Wau town over the weekend ahead of the scheduled visit of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Monday to celebrate Christmas Eve.

Wau and some of the state capital's surrounding area have experienced violent clashes since 8 December, which began over a dispute over a decision to move an administrative centre out of the town.

Last week Wau experienced violent clashes between protestors from different youth groups carrying traditional weapons, including sticks and hurling stones following the killing over 26 innocent civilians in Parajallah locality, some 48 miles south west of Wau town.

Authorities initially said they had arrested seven suspects before adding another suspect who is believed to have known the causes of the deaths. Parajallah locality is in the Bagari area; the proposed new location for the headquarters Wau County.

Bagari is inhabited by the Balanda tribe, also known as the Fartit, whose youth groups and intellectuals have rejected the proposed relocation of the Wau County administration. On December 8 and 9 protest against the change of headquarters led to eight people being killed, according to the government.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) initially put the death toll at ten before revising the statement down to nine. The former Wau County commissioner, John Peter Miskin, has claimed that 25 people were killed and 21 others were wounded in the protests two weeks ago.

A further 12 people are reported to have died in the second protest on Tuesday 18 December with more people wounded.

South Sudan's deputy interior minister, Salva Mathok Gengdit, who is currently in Wau, said Thursday he had received reports that only seven people have been killed and 32 been have been wounded.

Medical doctors say Wau Teaching Hospital's mortuary has received 12 dead bodies, although they have not given figures for the numbers of wounded who are being treated at the hospital.

In an effort to restore law and order, the government deployed extra police forces to Western Bahr el Ghazal this week.

On Thursday 20 December, Western Bahr el Ghazal authorities decided to impose a full-day curfew which remained in force until late on Friday when citizens complained of the need to be given access to water points and nearby shops and butcheries. Shops in the centre of town have remained closed and there has been a huge security presence in the streets since the violence was broken up this week.

The authorities on Saturday evening announced that President Salva Kiir would visit Wau on Monday 24 December to deliver his Christmas message. Citizens have been asked to attend Kiir's arrival and speech.

President Kiir is expected to hold meetings with leaders from Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal as well as Lakes and Warrap States. Kiir will also meet with youth representatives and traditional leaders from the Balanda, Jurchol and Dinka communities.

Governor Rizik Zachariah Hassan on Saturday formed a nine-member peace and reconciliation committee headed by his advisor on peace and reconciliation, Efessio Kon Uguak.

The committee includes traditional leaders from the Balanda and Dinka communities, as well as other residents in the state. The Western Bahr el Ghazal administration has also divided the town into six zones and deployed different security forces to patrol and monitor the security situation and activities of the population.

The mayor of Wau town has also formed a committee to assess the level of damage caused by the protests and suggest how the affected communities can be compensated by the government.

Western Bahr el Ghazal State security advisor, Rizik Dominic Samuel told journalists on Sunday that the security situation has been brought "under control" and urged citizens to show up in large groups to receive the president on Monday.

"There are no big concerns. Our people should come out tomorrow in big number to receive the president. He will address the public", Samuel said.

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