July 22, 2013 (TORIT) – The governor of South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria state visited Hiyala payam [district] in the capital, Torit on Monday following rising tension among communities in the areas.
- Eastern Equatoria governor Louis Lobong speaks at an event in Torit on 2 March 2012 (ST/Ijjo Bosco)
Authorities told Sudan Tribune that increased conflict among communities in Hiyala central and neighbouring Ileiu and Chalamini had prompted Louis Lobong Lojore’s surprise visit to the area.
“The mission that drew senior state government officials and security officers [was] aimed at assessing the cause of tension, following counter attacks and killings of innocent citizens around the neighbouring villages of Hiyala payam,” an official said.
He added that attempts by the governor’s team to meet with Ileiu and Chalamini communities hit a snag after residents failed to honour a planned meeting with the team.
Governor Lojore later disclosed that the state plans to organise a peace conference, seeking to reconcile and create harmony in Hiyala village and its surrounding neighbours.
He stressed that such an initiative would enhance free interaction and grazing between the Hiyala and Buya communities in the Kidepo area.
“You are communities surrounded by [a] common language, culture and norms. In case of death, all of you come and mourn together and share drinks and inter-marriage together,” Lojore told Hiyala community members, adding that he was “disturbed” by the recent surge in violence.
The Eastern Equatoria governor further reiterated the state government’s commitment to peace, urging youths to play more active roles in security work within their respective localities.
However, he conceded that the absence of enough security personnel in the area made it impossible to deploy police in every village.
Meanwhile, Lobong donated 500 South Sudanese pounds ($150) to Hiyala secondary school for the purchase of wood fuel, following a wave of panic that hit the school’s administration.
In April, at least eight people, including government soldiers, were killed when security forces clashed with cattle raiders, sparking a gun battle that threatened to further escalate the worrying security situation.
Thirteen others were also wounded, as well as an unknown number, mostly children attending schools at the time of the attack on 16 April.
The incident has prompted widespread condemnation, amid claims it was unnecessary for the army to intervene.
The clashes occurred as the state government attempted to contain reprisal attacks following an attack on Bira community in which more than 75 heads of cattle were stolen by raiders.