By Bol Tut Khan,
April 22, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —– I read a statement co-authored by Daniel Amum and Samson Oyay Awin of Collo Community in Khartoum. The statement was requesting and appealing to all UN Agencies, other International and National Organizations (NGOs) to intervene in a looming food crisis in all areas of Collo Kingdom, namely Wau Shilluk, Fashoda, Tonga, Kodok etc. The media-released statement was under the subject: “Declaration of Hunger and food crisis in Collo Kingdom”.
Additionally, this article is a sincere testimony of what I saw in part of the stated Kingdom. That yes, the Western parts of Upper Nile state’s areas are really in a dire need of not only food aids but also in need of multiple Humanitarian interventions. This is what I saw, observed recently when I passed via that corridor, especially in Tonga town. I witnessed it myself and I saw some signs during my three days which I spent in Panyikang County of Upper Nile state, Tonga town. To shed light a bit, many of you might have heart that I was temporary detained in Panyikang County’s Headquarters, Tonga from 9th-12th of April, 2016. This is very true; Mr. Kuol Kai, a colleague and I were really detained in Tonga, for three full days and four (4) hours. So, for public consumption let me publish why and how could they detain us in Tonga. Tonga is one of the SPLM/A-IO forces’ controlled areas.
It was exactly at 10:30 AM, when we arrived in the town on Saturday, the 9th of April 2016. Actually we were traveling by a speed boat on River Nile and our final destination wasn’t Tonga. However, we decided to go into the town, briefly to do two things: One, we wanted a branch of authority which should have concerned for NGOs to see and pass our travel documents as we were already advised (a branch which we could unfortunately find was not existing in that corridor) Two, our boat ran out of fuel, so our boat Driver wanted to buy fuel so that we proceed to our final destinations. The mission that took us there/via Panyikang County, Tonga town was humanitarian one. Thus, before we could reach a station where our boat Driver wanted to buy fuel, we met and gave our travel documents someone whom we believed would have been a person concerned, he was at the port/harbor. He looked at the documents and then he told us to follow him. We thought he was leading us to NGOs’ related office. Instead, we went with him up to their office where we could find a senior officer. He gave the documents to a senior Officer; a senior officer also looked at the documents. Then, unexpectedly after three minutes or four, a senior Officer glanced at us and said: “(1).Your travel documents are incomplete; (2). We don’t know the status of your NGO and where you’re coming from; (3).Your objective of coming here is unclear, so you are indefinitely detained”. Other supplementary reasons of as to why they detained us were: That they thought we were, “spies sent by South Sudan’s Government in Juba to come to I-O’s areas and bribe people with money”. Especially when they read and got on our document that Standard Action Liaison Focus (SALF) is a National Organization with its headquarters in Juba. “Why UN doesn’t bring food to areas controlled by the SPLM/A-I-O, Lt. Gen. Johnson Olony’s forces?” And “you National Organizations e.g. SALF, why don’t you bring food or other services to our end?”
We would assure them that for almost ten years now SALF has been carrying out its activities across the country based on humanitarian principles just like other humanitarian agencies. So we cannot come today and involve ourselves into politics whatsoever, what brought us here is pure humanitarian mission not to bribe people with money. And if SALF were to make a need assessment in this area and then, that needs assessment’s proposal is approved by our donor, we could come and operate in Tonga or elsewhere in this corridor without any kind of hesitation or delay. Those investigators have had installed one thing in their minds; that any National Organization can be Salva Kiir Government’s sympathizer.
Thus, the officer in charge told us not to move anywhere until they get verification information from their colleagues from the starting end, where we came from. We started the mission from, Old/New Fangak, and all these two locations are also controlled by SPLM/A-I-O Forces. The Officer told us, and we have even seen ourselves, that “for your information we have detained two UN barges three days ago. The barges are now in our river port standing there. These barges were coming from Malakal heading to Juba. We detained them because the (UN) informed us that the barges would have reached Tonga after two-three days but surprisingly, the barges arrived before the time they mentioned. Tonga’s authority must not easily permit UN to come, bypass our controlled area because it does not drop food for us here” the officer said. I then asked myself silently, are they indirectly trying to force the UN and its Partners, NGOs to drop them (Tonga’s people) food aids?
Good enough, for our case, they did never beat-torture or put us in jail during those three days. They really treated us as humanitarian staff; this is what I have to compliment them for. At 6:00 O’clock PM they told us to go and sleep together with one of their officers, at a nearby church’s premises. Though, we would later find that church’s premise, in a way they were handling its gate, looked like a funny or a political jail-cell. Why, because for the course of all those three days somebody else could come exactly at 8: 00 o’clock PM and locks the gate from outside. As we were leaving the security’s premises for Church’s on the first day, an officer promised us that he was going to provide us with some water for us to take shower. Thus, when it became the time for bathe, we try to wait and waited until 11:00 PM hoping for water to arrive, before we could lately realize that the thing was not going to come. So we went to sleep with our dusty bodies.
In the following morning we went to them again and they told us that they were yet to get any verification information from their counterparts in New Fangak. One day and half passed, two days passed. Every time we went to them trying to check whether they verified, they would tell us “Oh, no problem, you will be release soon and proceed to your final destination” That process of corroboration or not confirmation took us three full days. Until, we were finally released after three days and four (4) hours, when the higher leadership in person of Lt. Gen. Johnson Olony learned that there were NGO’s staff detained in Tonga. Following his directives, we were set free on 12th April 2016, at 2: 15 O’clock PM. We were given back all our confiscated items and then we could immediately proceed to our final destination. This became the end of our detention in Tonga town of Panyikang County. Our case, how we could be quickly released from detention was closely being facilitated by Brig. Gen. Duoth Dejuol Kuony who would every now and then talk with Lt. Gen. Johnson Oluny.
Now; let’s go back to the aim of this piece as I said earlier on, that yes the areas of Collo Kingdom are really in a dire need of various Humanitarian interventions. While in Tonga, I could see some signs of food crisis; the standards of living in town was too expensive. The residents are mostly IDPs and returnees who can be in need of this item or another. Their shelters in which they live are looking like make-shifted houses. “There is no, even a single humanitarian Organization providing the needed services to the people here in Tonga”. I was told so by one resident in the market but I failed to verify such information from anybody else in the town.
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On the second day of our staying in Tonga, I saw some local staff carrying some cold-boxes; it was like they were doing some vaccination campaigns in the town. But they were very far from where I was sitting, so I could not identify as to which Agency they were working for. In fact, I did not assess the whole area of Collo Kingdom to ascertain the magnitude of said food crisis there in other locations. However, based on early warning signs, residents’ attitudes and life expensiveness that I could partly witness in Tonga town, I would sincerely recommend that there is indeed a dire needs of multiple humanitarian interventions in the Kingdom.
The author is currently a humanitarian worker, working with Standard Action Liaison Focus (SALF) He is also a member of South Sudanese Civil society. And he is reachable at email@example.com
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