April 24, 2012 (BOR) – Jonglei State’s deputy governor Hussein Maar, said Saturday 21 April that the Ethiopian government has called for South Sudan to return hundreds of armed young men from Pibor, Akobo, Uror, Nyirol and Pochalla counties who escaped to Ethiopia to avoid a disarmament campaign.
Maar, who is also the state minister of Information and Communication, revealed that on a short visit to Ethiopia earlier this month the government complained about the huge of number armed youth escaping disarmament from Jonglei.
Jonglei’s disarmament campaign began mid-March in response to large scale fighting between rival cattle herding groups in December and January, which displaced over 100,000 people. The clashes were a continuation of cattle raids and revenge attacks that killed over 1,000 people in 2011.
The South Sudanese army (SPLA) and police have deployed over 15,000 personnel to carry out the exercise. Previous disarmament campaigns have been unsuccessful for a variety of reasons as many groups have hidden their weapons or rearmed fearing that they will be vulnerable should their neighbours not be as thoroughly armed as they are.
On Saturday the Jonglei Civil Society group organised a rally in Bor calling for peace in South Sudan’s largest state.
Speaking at the event Jonglei’s deputy governor said the Ethiopian government was “tired” of armed South Sudanese, “especially we the people of Jonglei”, crossing into their country to avoid the army.
“Ethiopia is saying go and take your people”, said Maar.
He said the government and the people of Ethiopia fear that Jonglei’s armed groups may cause violence in their territory.
The head of the disarmament operation in Jonglei, Kuol Dim Kuol, reported in March that a huge number of youth crossed to Ethiopia from Pibor, Akobo and Uror counties to avoid handing over their weapons.
A self-proclaimed prophet from Uror County, Dak Kueth, is reported to have crossed into Ethiopia with a large number of followers after they resisted attempts by the SPLA to disarm them in a battle that left seven people dead in March.
Maar urged Jonglei’s young men to campaign for an end to violence in their counties, saying that they were the main agents of insecurity.
“It is the youth who are doing the destruction and it is the same youth who can bring peace”, said Maar.
He said development cannot come when there is a fighting between communities. Maar said security is a collective responsibility of all the people in Jonglei State.
“Security is a collective responsibility to all of us. You talk to your colleagues who are still running with guns to give their guns[to the army in order] for peace to prevail in the state”, he continued.
“If you cannot accept peace yourselves, do you think that I can force [you] to do it. Don’t blame the government for not bring[ing] peace, peace is in your hand[s] and the government will only facilitate it”, he added.