26 December 2012

South Sudan: Kiir Orders Security to Hunt Suspects Behind Burning National Flag in Wau

Wau — President Salva Kiir has ordered South Sudan's security forces to carry out an intensive investigation into reports that some protestors set fire to the national flag on 8 and 9 December to express their anger at the decision of Western Bahr el Ghazal's government to relocate Wau County headquarters to the Bagari area.

Kiir has asked Chol Thon, the commander of the South Sudanese army's fifth division during a security meeting to work with the security forces to immediately identify the suspects.

"These people must be hunted and brought to book because what they have done cannot be compromised. They are not against Rizik [Zachariah Hassan] as governor; they are not against me as the president. They are against this country. Burning national flag, which is our symbol is unacceptable", Kiir told a large crowd at Wau stadium on Monday.

South Sudan gained independence last year as part a 2005 peace deal with Sudan that installed former rebels - the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) - as the ruling party in world's youngest nation.

At independence the SPLM flag became the South Sudanese national flag.

Some South Sudanese, Kiir said, have a "hangover" from Khartoum rule and "still believe we are not independent". There were reports that some of the protestors were praising Bashir during demonstration and talking ill of the SPLM government.

There was no circumstance that would lead to South Sudan reuniting with north Sudan, the President told the crowd on Christmas Eve.

Kiir apparently cut short his planned three-day visit to the state because of was unhappiness at recent events in Wau, with a series of clashes between communities and the police. The government has confirmed that 15 people have died. Other sources put the figure much higher.

On 8 and 9 December, eight people were killed, according to the government, when police attempted to remove road blocks around Wau that had been established in protest against the transfer of the administrative centre.

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

Ten days after the initial violent protests a further 12 people are reported to have died in the second protest on Tuesday 18 December with more people wounded. However, South Sudan's deputy interior minister, Salva Mathok Gengdit, said that only seven people died and 32 been have been wounded in that incident.

Kiir called on traditional leaders and youth groups to avoid being used by politicians and instead strengthen traditional values and ancestral relations among community members in the state.

He urged the state administration to arrest those suspected of instigating the protest and the killing of innocent Dinka civilians in Parajallah locality in Bagari area.

The attack on civilians 48 miles south west of Wau town in Parajallah killed 26 people according to local authorities, when Balanda youth groups set upon migrant workers from the Dinka tribe carrying traditional weapons, including sticks and hurling stones.

Authorities have arrested eight suspects in connection with the deaths in Parajallah, which is located in the Bagari area; the proposed new location for the headquarters Wau County.

"I asked the state governor and the security to identify these people. If they are with me in Juba at the national government, let me know and I will deal with them. If they are here in Wau, then it is simple [Governor] Rizik will deal with them. We cannot compromise this land", he added.

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