11 January 2013

South Sudan: Western Bahr El Ghazal Governor Says December Protest Was Instigated

Wau — The Governor of South Sudan's Western Bahr el Ghazal, Rizik Zachariah Hassan, said Friday that December's protests over transfer the headquarters of Wau County was politically instigated by people with "special interests" to destabilize not only his state the entire country.

Protesters predominantly members of the Balanda ethnic group took to the streets of Wau town on 8 and 9 December in rejection of the state cabinet's decision to relocate Wau County administrative headquarters to Bagari, some 12 miles south west of the state capital.

The demonstration, which authorities say was not approved, led to the death of at least eight people when police tried to break up the protest by firing live bullets.

Western Bahr el Ghazal's information minister, Derik Alfred Uya, said last month that eight were killed and several others wounded, while the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said nine died - initially they put the figure at ten but later revised it down.

Wau County's former, John Peter Miskin, who resigned over the proposed transfer in October claimed 25 people were killed and 21 others were wounded.

Following the protests some 26 migrant workers from the Dinka ethnic group were killed in the Farajalah area some 48 miles south west of Wau town.

Police authorities have made some arrests in connection to the deaths as well as investigating local politicians who are suspected of involvement.

In a statement to Sudan Tribune on Friday, shortly after finishing briefing meeting in Juba with the Speaker of South Sudan's National Assembly, James Wani Igga, Governor Hassan, said a security committee, set up to investigate the incidents, had gathered substantive information showing that the protest was politically motivated.

"There are substantive grounds to believe that the violence in the state was not a result of [a] scramble for land or other resources. It was purely a politically motivated protest. There are number of things which shows that the youth were instigated to cause havoc in order to draw the attention of the central government and members of the international community by people with special interest", he said.

Western Bahr el Ghazal's security committee has gathered sufficient information showing that the protests were not spontaneous but designed to bring the Balanda community's objection to the transfer to the attention of the central government in Juba.

"We have video clips covering activities of people behind this violence. So this was not a simple incident. It was a well planned project. Information giving details including dates and places where these meetings were held [has been collected by] the state security committee. This information will be released to the public very soon when the committee completes the investigation. It is almost finishing its work", Hassan explained.

Meanwhile, Speaker James Wani Igga said the briefing made by the governor will help members of South Sudan's parliament addressing the issue.

Governor Hassan "briefed me about protest over county transfer in December which generated a lot of concerns. This briefing is very important. It will help the house find how to address the issue once it is brought for discussion to the members", Igga explained.

"The governor came to brief me about [the] general situation" he said in comments on South Sudan TV.

Western Bahr el Ghazal is South Sudan's most north-westerly state and border Sudan. from which the South broke away in 2011.

Igga said that people in Raga County of one of Western Bahr el Ghazal shares a direct border with Sudan.

"Our people, especially those in Raja County are in constant of fear of attack from Sudan" the Speaker said, in reference to the land and air attacks South Sudan alleges took place at the end of December and the beginning on January.

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