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BY JWOTHAB OTHOW - 11 Jun 2024

Opinion| Who is responsible for the recent violence in Malakal?

Firstly, let me convey my deepest sympathy and condolences for the tragic loss of innocent Collo civilians who were killed by Padang Dinka militias in both Makal and Fashodo Counties.

I express my strong condemnation for the brutal killings of Collo civilians by Padang militants in Upper Nile state. The genesis of the current conflict between Collo and Padang can be traced back to when President [Salva] Kiir issued the presidential decree order of 2009, a decision which granted Collo ancestral land to the Padang Dinka. The support of President Kiir has allowed Padang Dinka to persist with its falsehood claims until today. The Government of Sudan in the past rejected the Padang Dinka's false claim, despite their attempt before South Sudan became independent in 2011. Peace cannot be achieved in Upper Nile State unless President Kiir reverses his decision on Pigi, which was originally Collo land given to Padang Dinka in 2009.

As part of the Padang Dinka strategy to unlawfully occupy Collo land from the east bank, President Kiir's administration has been supplying the Padang Dinka militia with weapons since 2009. This is part of Kiir’s plan and attempt to force the Collo off the east bank of the White Nile. Padang Dinka militants have been committing crimes against Collo civilians in Upper Nile State for a long time, but they have not been held accountable for crimes. It is time to hold the Padang militants accountable for the heinous crimes they have committed against Collo civilians, including the targeted killings in Makal and Fashodo Counties in May 2024. The recent killings of Collo civilians by Padang militants in Fashodo and Makal counties are disgraceful and barbaric acts that endanger peace in Upper Nile State.

Urgent action is needed from the government of South Sudan to remove all Padang Dinka who are unlawfully occupying Collo land on the east bank, based on the 1 January 1956, boundary.  We urge the Government of South Sudanese to resolve the land dispute between Padang Dinka and Collo in Upper Nile State, based on historical evidence, as a crucial step towards achieving peace in the Upper Nile State. The Padang Dinka militants must cease their continuous systematic targeting of Collo civilians. The security organs in the Upper Nile State should be restructured to reflect the diversity of the state, including other tribes in the security forces to stop Padang Dinka militants from killing Collo civilians without consequences.

The South Sudan and Upper Nile State governments need to address the issue of institutionalized impunity, which has enabled Padang militants to freely target and harm Collo civilians without being held accountable. The Padang Dinka militants have demonstrated their hostility towards peace and harmonious coexistence in Upper Nile State. The Government of South Sudan must act urgently to resolve the crisis of illegal occupation of Collo land by Padang militants in Upper Nile. Collo civilians have been victims of cowardly and shameful crimes committed by Padang Dinka militants since 2014. Abu Shoq and Mathloum, Padang Dinka militias, have been identified as the culprits behind the killing of Collo civilians in Fashodo and Makal counties. These militias of Padang were established by President Kiir's regime in 2014. The same Padang Dinka militants who killed Collo were responsible for the deaths of over seventy people at the POC site in Malakal in 2016. The state authorities should not allow Padang militants to act with impunity, killing Collo civilians inside Malakal town. The rise of Padang Dinka militias was seen when Former Petroleum Minister Stephen Dieu Dhau provided funding to the Padang Dinka militia groups of Abu Shoq and Mathloum and supplied them with weaponry and ammunition.

The Padang Dinka militias, who have not been held responsible for their crimes, have been targeting and killing Collo civilians.  As we witnessed recently in Fashodo County, Padang Dinka killed four Collo men there. In response, Collo youth in Malakal took action and killed a Dinka man in front of the UN Protection of Civilians site in Malakal. Padang militants killed several Collo civilians in Malakal on the same day. The predominance of Padang militants in Upper Nile's security forces makes it impossible to achieve peace in the state. The Padang Dinka militants have proven their stance against peaceful coexistence and peace in the state. Tragedy struck when four Collo civilians were killed while fishing in Fashodo County.

Padang militants drove to Fashodo County and shot at four Collo men.  It is very unfortunate when some political elites are trying to convince an average citizen to believe that there is peace in the country, while people are getting killed and shot at in the daylight inside Malakal. The Juba establishment continues with their illusion and campaigning for elections in December 2024. The establishment in Juba wants us to believe that the country is stable and using all kinds of propaganda in their campaigning for elections while there is still insecurity everywhere in the country. This is a joke!

A few months ago, the establishment in Juba decided to reintegrate Padang militants into the security forces in Upper Nile State and now they are terrorizing Collo civilians and threatening the peace in the state. It is for these reasons that President Kiir decided not to disarm the Padang militias. He has instead chosen to integrate the Padang militants into the government’s security forces and kept them in the Upper Nile state.  

The Padang Dinka’s baseless claim and attempt to dispossess Collo of their ancestral lands on the eastern bank of the White Nile River started as early as the 1980s. Unfortunately, President Kiir has appointed Gen. Chol Thon, who is the spearhead and supporter of the Padang militias, as defense minister because he has been arming the Padang militants, Abu Shoq and Mathloum, who continue to terrorize Collo civilians. The aim of Padang Dinka militants is the forceful displacement of Collo people through terror to create demographic change. It is on record that Defense Minister Gen. Chol Thon Balok has been and is providing arms and ammunition to the Padang Dinka militants that are now being used to kill Collo civilians. Gen. Thon and the Padang Dinka militias and their political elites are continuing with their project and agenda against the Collo on the east bank including Malakal as we have witnessed recently. President Kiir is a tribal president because he sides with his Dinka tribe. The Padang Dinka militants are using the country’s resources to arm themselves and are working against peaceful coexistent while lynching Collo civilians every day.

These days, there are some Padang Dinka surrogates in North America who have tried so hard to rewrite the history of the modern Upper Nile State and to change the boundaries between Collo and Padang Dinka. Some of these surrogates are Giernyang, Abiel, and Wilson, all of who are claiming fake history arguing that the boundary between Collo and Padang Dinka is in the middle of the White Nile. They also claim the Padang Dinka came to Upper Nile in the 1200s, which is a big lie. These Padang Dinka individuals are the ones promoting violence in Upper Nile. They deny historical facts that the Padang Dinka came later around the 1700s while Collo and Anyuak have been there in the Upper Nile for more than 300 years. The Padang Dinka surrogates in North America, who make noise on social media, and are trying to fake historical facts, must know and must be told that it is a crime to distort historical facts.

The Collo blamed President Kiir for his decision and for taking sides with Padang Dinka and gave Pigi, which is the Collo land, to the Dinka in 2009. Also, since the Padang militants were integrated into the security forces, insecurity has intensified in the state as the Padang have been killing Collo civilians and they continue to terrorize Collo civilians.

For peace to prevail in Upper Nile State, the Padang militias must be removed from security forces because they are criminals and anti-peace and are the new terrorists in the state.

It makes me very angry as a citizen of the Republic of South Sudan concerning what is happening in the country. I recently came across a news story on the Sudan Tribune website where a UNMISS official narrated about what is happening in the Upper Nile States. “The clashes erupted on Thursday between two camps housing internally displaced people from the Shilluk and Nuer ethnic groups, according to sources from UNMISS and the state government,” the official said. I am not surprised by the double standards of UNMISS which has been in South Sudan since 2005. They pretend as if they do not know the difference between Nuer and Dinka and this is a deliberate act to create more confusion.

The Padang Dinka have realized that the Collo have no political influence in the current government in Juba. Unfortunately, the current Government of South Sudan refuses to protect anyone and President Kiir made it very clear to the people of South Sudan in 2021 that his government will no longer deploy security forces to intervene during inter-communal fighting. He said, “The next time when you go and fight, I will not come to your rescue again nor form a committee to go to the war zone. I have decided that if any other fighting erupts; I won’t send either soldiers or the police. I will leave you to fight yourselves until one section runs from the other.” The Padang Dinka political elites and its militants are using the country’s resources with the support of President Kiir’s government against Collo.

In conclusion, we strongly condemn the recent barbaric acts and killings of Collo civilians by the Padang Dinka militias in the areas of Fashodo and Makal counties. I strongly urge the Troika countries, IGAD, and Africa Union who were involved and are the guarantors of the 2018 peace agreement to intervene immediately by putting pressure on the establishment in Juba to act and commit itself to the full implementation of the peace agreement and to hold those Padang peace spoilers accountable for the crimes they have committed against Collo before the crisis in Upper Nile State leads to the total collapse of the peace deal.

The guarantors of the 2018 peace agreement must put more pressure on the Juba regime and the Upper Nile State authorities to launch an investigation into the recent killings of Collo civilians and hold the Padang Dinka militias who committed crimes against innocent Collo civilians accountable. The Padang militias and their associates will never force Collo to abandon their ancestral lands on the east bank despite the threats and killing of Collo civilians. It is the right of the Collo people to defend their ancestral land and we must defend our God-given rights to our ancestral land with our blood if necessary.

May God bless the Collo Kingdom!

The writer, Jwothab Othow, can be reached via jwothab@yahoo.com.

The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made is the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.