Home | News    Wednesday 5 January 2011

W. Equatoria Governor suspends Jehovah’s Witnesses churches for refusing to register for referendum

January 4, 2011 (RII-YUBU, WESTERN EQUATORIA) - The Governor of Western Equatoria state Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro has described on December 27 2010, Jehovah Witnesses, who did not register to vote in Southern Sudan’s independence referendum as “traitors”.

The governor, who has been campaigning and spreading awareness of the January 9 referendum around Western Equatoria, said that “Jehovah Witnesses are traitors for Freedom of Southern Sudan” when visiting Ri-Yubu Payam, Tambura County..

“During the Voters registration for the Southern Sudan’s Referendum, the JWs (Jehovah Witnesses) in Western Equatoria State have refused to register,” he revealed.

Bakosoro also said, that “the JWs had attempted to persuade other citizens not to take part in the voter registration exercise that concluded on December 15.

However, the religious group vehemently deny that they tried to influence others citizens, saying that they only wanted to follow their religious beliefs “not to participate in any political issues of government.”

The same scenario occurred during Sudan’s general elections in April.

“As a government, with its own constitution, and law, the Jehovah Witness churches in the state will remain suspended until consultations are made across South Sudan and the rest of the world” Bakosoro announced.

“We shall consult in America to find out which Bible are JWs are using or do they have different government?” asked Bakosoro.

Bakosoro called upon county commissioners to ensure that the churches remained suspended “until accurate results are got, and decisions will be taken.”

Bakosoro lamented that “the referendum is not about an individual, but as a golden slate which was guaranteed by the two million lives lost in the struggle of this nation, this will determine the future of our grand children.”

In the 1983-2005 north-south civil war two million people died and four million displaced according to the UN. Africa’s longest running civil war ended with a peace agreement that gave the south the right to determine whether they separate from the north in a referendum.

On Tuesday 28 December, the Deputy Governor of Western Equatoria, Sapana A.Abuyi received a delegation of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Juba headed by Phillip Paulino.

Speaking to the deputy governor, Paulino stated that “it is against their religion to register or mix with politics.”

He asked the deputy governor of the state government to permit the religious minority to “resume their religious activities without precondition.”

In response, the deputy governor said, “the state government is not against any church, but it is because the Jehovah Witness followers continue to preach wrong messages to the local communities of the state with regards to the forthcoming southern Sudan historic votes.”

The deputy governor, who is also the chairperson of the state referendum task force, disclosed that, “the Comprehensive Peace Agreement has made it clear for the Southerners to determine their fate through ballot papers on the 9th of Jan 2011.”

Furthermore the governor encouraged the citizens to take the referendum seriously as part of life, calling it as the “final walk to freedom, democracy and prosperity for the people of southern Sudan.”

Governor Bakosoro asked the people of Ri- Yubu and the rest of the state to focus on improved food production to end dependency on food aid.

The Catholic Bishop of Tambura and Yambio Diocese, Edwardo Hiboro Kusala told a congregation in Rii-Yubu said that it was an achievement of the current SPLM led government that they had managed to convince most sons and daughters of the state “to defect back to SPLM.”

Many politicians from other political and military groups have rejoined the SPLM in the build up to the referendum including: retired Major General Alison Moanane Magaya from the Khartoum-based National Congress Party (NCP), John Masuwa, Paulino Zizi, Charles Kisanga formerly of the SPLM breakaway group SPLM–Democratic Change and many more. Another senior NCP figure Angelo Beda also recently declared that he has left Sudan’s governing party.

The Bishop called upon citizens “to join hands to support the current government for the development and effective service delivery to the people of the state.”