South Sudan: Members of Western Bahr Ghazal State (WBGS) in Diaspora Petitioned President Kiir

opinion

Dear President Mayardit,

We, the people of Western Bahr Ghazal State (WBGS) in the diaspora have been watching in horror the systematic brutalization of our people in Wau and the surrounding villages leading to their massacre in cold blood on December 8th and 9th 2012 in which nine innocent peaceful protesters were shot dead in broad daylight by SPLA soldiers and police under the watch of Governor Rizik Zakaria Hassan. We are disturbed that the governor created hatred among the people of the State and fueled tribal tensions between Dinka civilians and other tribes of WBGS particularly the ethnic groups collectively referred to as Fertit. As a result we know that on December 17th and 18th Governor Rizik allowed large number of Dinka civilians from Warrap, Northern Bahr El Ghazal, and Lakes States, armed with pangas, knives, spears, batons, and machetes, to enter Wau and unleash a killing spree in which six civilians were hacked and burned to death in their houses, scores of over fifty people seriously wounded, and over two hundred houses burned down, forcing nearly five thousand people to seek refuge in the United Nations Compound in Wau. In Farajala village, three unarmed civilians were shot to death and their bodies burned by the SPLA soldiers.

When the massacre of peaceful demonstrators took place on December 8th and 9th, Governor Rizik, seconded by SSTV under your watch, launched an all out media campaign against the Fertit accusing them of being rebels, chanting support for President Omar al-Bashir, robbing banks, lootings, and burning flags and denying that unarmed protesters were killed by the SPLA and the police. When Al Jazeera English news channel showed video of SPLA soldiers shooting unarmed protesters and dead civilians the whole story was quickly covered by reports claiming that Fertit of killed twenty six (26) Dinka civilians in Farajala, even though there was no proof of all the bodies. Six bodies were found but no investigation has been made to verify who killed those individuals. They were probably killed somewhere else and their bodies dumped in Baggari.

On your recent visit to Wau on December 24, 2012, South Sudanese around the world were very disturbed by the message declared in your speech. Instead of calling for an investigation into the massacre of innocent civilians, you declared war against your own people and gave absolute powers to Governor Rizik, the SPLA and the police to arrest and shoot any one with a differing opinion about the transfer of Wau County Headquarters whether they are in Wau, Juba, or anywhere in South Sudan. Governor Rizik is now misusing these powers to arrest a large number of police officers, prison officers, wildlife officers, former military officers in the Sudan Army, public and civil service officials, and civil society activists. The State Legislative Assembly has been shut down and some members of the assembly have been arrested, including Deputy Speaker Mr. Edward Ukungeri and Hon. Julio Bensensio. Many civilians are being abducted from their homes at night by security forces and are nowhere to be seen or heard from by family members. Wau is under a complete siege and has virtually become a ghost city.

President Mayardit, we are also saddened by your message in which you stated clearly that you intend to wipe out Wau from the map of WBGS and return the Fertit to Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum or wherever they came from. It is worth noting that when the Dinka had dispute over land with Shuluks in Malakal in 2010, the Shuluks were accused of being rebels supported by the Arab regime in Khartoum and many killed. We now come to believe that the goal of transferring Wau County to Baggari is not about provision of services, but physical elimination of some ethnic groups from Wau and the rest of the State. We are peace-loving people seeking harmony and stability and really hoped that you would've called for investigation into the murders of the innocent people and consoled their hurting families. Instead the focus turned into chasing people assumed to have burned the national flag and assuring the Dinka group that those who killed their people will be hunted down. To our despair, you did not mention anything about the non-Dinka victims. Mr. President, we are very disappointed that you decided to take sides and, instead of quenching the fire, your comments fueled more hatred and gave the 'green light' to Governor Rizik to torture his own brothers and sisters.

We are also very disappointed that the SPLA/M philosophy of "taking towns to people" pioneered by the Late Dr. John Garang de Mabior has been distorted, misused, and misinterpreted to fulfill the ambitions of only a few with material power who want to grab people's lands. We believe that the idea is meant to develop all the rural areas in South Sudan equally and not to uproot cities and towns and plant them in villages. Since the CPA implementation the government is yet to build a single school, hospital, roads, and/or provide public service to South Sudanese. Today, the dirt roads we drive on, the buildings we occupy, the school buildings we still have standing, and the hospitals we take our sick to, were all built by the British colonial administration in the early twentieth century. If the government of South Sudan has since 2005 being challenged in providing services to people in Juba as the capital, even though billions of dollars in oil revenues have flown into the country, we do not believe that Governor Rizik will be able to provide such services to people in Baggari or the State in general. Basic services that have been functioning in Wau like water and electricity are no longer functioning under Governor Rizik's administration.

President Kiir, we are not sure if you will read this letter, listen to our voices, and/or take any action as we believe that our leaders in the government often ignore our pleas. We nonetheless wish to inform you that the massacres of the innocent people in Wau constitute an egregious human rights violations and ethnic cleansing for which we hold Governor Rizik, Major Gen. Chol Thon - SPLA Division Five Commander, Brig. Angelo Taban Biajo - Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement, and others in WBGS Administration fully responsible for ordering and carrying out the heinous crimes. We appeal to bring those who committed these crimes to justice and establish rule of law for the rights, freedom, liberty, and protection of civilians. The death of our people has no statute of limitation.

We are, therefore, urging you to take the following actions:

1. Remove Governor Rizik Zakaria Hassan from the office immediately according to Article 101, section(r) (s) of the 2011 South Sudan Transitional Constitution. The people of WBGS are upset and lost trust in him and this move will open up doors for fresh beginnings;

2. Rescind Governor Rizik Zakaria Hassan's decision to transfer Wau County Government Headquarters to Baggari and open dialogue with the locals until an agreement is reached;

3. Call for an independent investigation into the killings of innocent people in Wau and Baggari to determine who was behind them rather than pointing fingers on one tribe falsely;

4. Return all the lands and private properties confiscated fraudulently to their rightful owners;

5. Issue the immediate release of all political prisoners who have been arrested over the past months particularly in December alone including: Hon. Julio Bensensio, Hon. Haroun Abbakar Haroun, John Peter Miskin, John Uyu and his wife Naima Abbas, Anthony Sogone, and many public service officials, retired military, journalists, activists, and many detained in Wau and Mapel on a daily basis;

6. Cease further arbitrary arrests and detentions of officials, intellectuals, youth, women, and men who are simply exercising their rights as free citizens;

7. Investigate the role Governor Rizik, Brig. Angelo Taban, Maj. Gen. Chol Thon, Brig. Albino Uto Mariano, Brig. Stephen Jawar Vuwar, and other senior officials for planning and executing the massacres of the innocent people in December; and

8. Withdraw all the SPLA forces who are now raping women, killing innocent civilians, plundering, and looting from Baggari, Ngodakala, Farajala, Namatina, Deim Zubier, and other villages in the State.

President Mayardit, we believe you have at your fingertips the powers to stop the massacres of the people in WBGS. The constitution gives you that sweeping powers. You now have the opportunity to end the needless manufactured sufferings that have been created for the ethnic communities. Your quick action on these issues will go a long way to deescalate the massacre situations unfolding in Wau and to restore order, security, and normalcy in WBGS.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation on this matter of life and death for the people of Western Bahr El Ghazal State and for all the people of South Sudan.

Sincerely,

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