South Sudan government, opposition groups involved in illegal timber trade

Photo: Timber in an unidentified area in South Sudan

November 27th 2019 (Nyamilepedia) – South Sudan government and rebel groups are engaged in illegal trade, a report by the United Nations released on Friday said.

However South Sudan’s main armed opposition group SPLM-IO led by first vice-president designate Dr. Riek Machar denied the accusation saying the world body was confusing people.

“If there are still forces of IO in Kajo-Keji area, they are still waiting for the second phase [cantonment] and it is not that they are doing business as put across [in the U.N. report]. One thing the U.N. is doing is to put confusion when peace is moving on well like that,” Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel, the deputy SPLA-IO told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

The UN said on Friday In a 33-page, it received “credible information” indicating Major General Moses Lokujo of SPLA-IO Division 2B was “directly involved in the taxation of teak and mahogany” being illegally harvested in Liwolo, Kariwa, Kendire, Kala, Ajio, Lora Manglotore, Bori, Lowili and Katire payams, all of which are under the control of opposition forces.

“What do they mean like illegal in a controlled area of SPLA-IO? It is supposed to be legal because that thing moved through the community and it comes up to the level of government [IO leadership]. During war, there are those who are loyal to the government, and there are those who are loyal to the rebels, they will always be loyal to us and those with the government will be loyal to the government,” Lam added.

The report also said Lokujo has been active in transporting logs across South Sudan’s borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. Gabriel said U.N. experts connected Lokujo to the illegal activity because of logging in Kajo-Keji.

“The truth is, the logging is done by the community approved by the landlords,” Lokujo told South Sudan in Focus.

“After NAS attacked us in 2017 in Kajo-Keji and we lost, three quarters of these civilians — they went back to Uganda. We fought for seventeen days against the forces of Thomas Cirilo and all these IDPS there moved to Uganda. But the U.N. to restrict it to the harassment of the SPLA-IO, they have already taken sides with forces of Thomas Cirilo,” Lam told VOA.

According to the U.N. panel, timber traders pay the SPLA-IO up to $600 for the right to log and $800 to transport logs through their territories.

The U.N. experts said South Sudan Peoples Defense Force commanders in Pageri and Ajaci counties in the former Eastern Equatoria State have traded in timber since April 2017. The U.N. experts said the SSPDF, especially units of its Tiger Division deployed in Moli, are illegally cutting timber and taxing logging companies.

The Panel says the beneficiary of the illegal logging was Major General Johnson Juma, head of administration and finance for the SSPDF. The Panel of Experts said illegal tree logging in South Sudan has left locals with no income in those areas. The South Sudan Peoples Defense Forces Spokesman Major General Lul Ruai declined to comment on the U.N. allegations.

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