Juba — The governor of Western Bahr el Ghazal, Rizik Zachariah Hassan, has issued a series of executive orders establishing a local legislative council in all the three of the state's counties.
The creation of the new councils follows protests in December that resulted in the death of 20 civilians and widespread property damage, according to collated figures from government sources, who opposed the transfer to the headquarters of Wau county to Bagari, about 19kms south-west of the state capital, Wau town.
A further 26 civilians were killed in the Farajallah area, some 77kms south-west of Wau town. Investigation committees are currently looking into both incidents.
Hassan quoted a constitutional provision in the 2009 Local Government Act as the basis for establishing the councils, which he said would consolidate delivery of basic services and strengthen the presence of authorities at grassroots level.
Although the government has maintained that moving the headquarters of Wau and Jurr River counties out of Wau town was in order to better deliver services to people in rural areas, some groups feared the transfers were designed to marginalise them.
Jurr River county's commissioner accepted the transfer, however, Wau county's commissioner later resigned over the issue. The Balanda community, who were at the centre of the dispute, along with other groups accepted the transfer in mid-January.
Western Bahr el Ghazal state's minister of information, Derek Alfred Uya, said councils will assume legislative roles at the local level. They will be able to make laws as long as they are compatible with South Sudan's national and state-level constitutions, he said.
They will also be able to define the administrative jurisdiction between traditional authorities and the government, Uya said.
"The establishment of these councils at the local level is in accordance with the provision of the transitional constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. It is within the supreme law of this country. The 2009 Local Government Act provides clear basis and it is important to implement it because it will enhance peace and stability in the area. Every citizen will be able to know what the constitution says because these councils will be empowered to make use of the constitution", Uya said on Thursday.
The speaker of Western Bahr el Ghazal state's legislative assembly, Mayar Acho, said: "Members of parliament are currently busy. They are gathering views from their constituencies and from the general public. We want to enact very, very strong laws to strengthen good governance, accountability and transparency".
The top legislator in the state said on Thursday that the parliament will work together with the executive branch of government in the state so that laws enacted by the house are put into use.
"We will work together with the executive organ in the state and all the other institutions like the judiciary to ensure that these laws, the laws that we shall enact and those that have passed into law are fully implemented. It is good the governor has established local councils. This has been our push. We want local people to be involved in all decision making processes through local institutions", he said.