Republic of South Sudan
Tonj East County-Romich.
To: H.E. President Salva Kiir Mayardit,
C-in-C, SSPDF and other organized forces,
President of the Republic of South Sudan—Juba
Find attached here with is the report of the Peace Committee which visited Tonj East County between 10th-23rd. August, 2020.
The report is being submitted to your good office for your information and further directives. …..
Documentary report from the Go-Between Peace Committee of Tonj Politicians, Elders and military officers on the disastrous incident of Romich between the Disarmament Forces in Romich and Luanyjang Gelweng Civil Youth’s Mob
1. In a quick response to the unfortunate incident in Luanyjang, which started in the afternoon of August the 8th – 9th, 2020, Tonj community in both Juba and Tonj town immediately approached the country leadership with a call to be allowed and facilitated to move to the incident Site – Romich, in order to intercede between the fighting youths and the government Disarmament Force with the aim of restraining both sides from further escalation. Comrade President, the committee is very thankful for facilitating our peace team of MPS, Elderly Politicians and Military officers hailing from different areas of Tonj Community. The Military helicopter allocate by your excellency provided had to pass by Tonj Town where it picked six politicians and two pressmen. The two teams from Juba and Tonj constituted a ‘Go-Between Peace Committee’. The plane arrived Romich by about 12:00 noon, on August the 10th, two days after the incident. Below are the members of the ‘Go-Between Peace Committee’: –
The Juba Team: –
- Hon. Caguor Adong Manyang, MP, TNLA, Juba.
- Hon. Eng. Majok Dut Muorwel, MP, TNLA, Juba.
- Maj. Gen. Mathew Mathiang Magordit, former Governor of the defunct Tonj State.
- Hon. Peter Mariel Deng Aleu, MP, TNLA, Juba.
- Hon. Capt. John Mayiik Bath, former Commissioner of Tonj East County.
- Brig. Gen. (PSC) Lodovico Lual Lok, from the Army Gen. HQRS.
- Lt. Col. Aleu Lok reec Kiir, from the Army Gen. HQRS.
- 2ndLt. Gur Kok Mabuoc, from the NS.
- Mr. Aduer Dhuriak Aduer, Luanyjang Youth in Juba.
Tonj Team: –
- RT. Hon. Mario Malook Lual Wol, Speaker of the defunct Tonj State Assembly and Acting Tonj Community Leader.
- Hon. Ustaz Lewis Anei Madut-Kuendit, former Governor of Warrap State.
- Hon. Gen. Francis Marial Abur, former D/Governor of the defunct Tonj State.
- Hon. Toby Mawien Yuot Aleu, Deputy Speaker, Defunct Tonj State Assembly.
- Hon. Zakaria Thokyok Magol, MP, Defunct Tonj State Assembly.
- Hon. Madhol Chol Thuc, former Commissioner for Luanyjang South County and Tonj East County.
- Hon. Luka Lual Bol, former Commissioner for Luanyjang South County.
- Peter Deng Kolnyin, SSBC Camera man based in the state.
- Daniel Mareeng Wek, SSBC TV reporter.
The report: –
BACKGROUND TO THE CONFLICT:
1. On June 2nd, 2020, Military unit from the SSPDF arrived Aliet Cattle Camp in Luanyjang from Tonj town. Its mission was to retrieve some 300 cows then looted from Adoor and Baach Sections of Jalwau community of Ananatak Section of Tonj East County, by the Rubaar youths of Luanyjang from Makuac Payam in the same Tonj East County.
2. The force succeeded to retrieve the looted cows and had them returned to their owners in Adoor and Baach. After the looted cows’ mission was over, the force was made to transfer to Romich County Centre. It stationed at Rumabuth School Compound to the East of the County Centre. This was on June 17th. There and then the force commander—Col. Philip Piol Ayuel, appointed a joint force of (SSPDF of about 11 personnel headed by Corporal Peter Mathou Deng and police constables, about 10 soldiers. This military was police unit headed by RSM/ Yel Yuai Monycol it was stationed at Romich Market. This, ostensibly, was to stop problems that used to happen in the market, including those armed civil youths coming to the town and market with guns.
As a result, the population ceased to do troubles as such; and there were no young men coming to the market with guns any more.
According to the County administrators’ chiefs and County Police constant torturing became the order of the day throughout Romich, the market of Romich.
Then, came what would later trigger the disastrous fight between this market unit of MP and some young men. The trigger came up when this market MP, led by Corporal/ Peter Mathou Deng, decided to take something call ‘Chal’ or scarf from anybody coming to the market, a scarf type of an Arab cloth in the form of large hanker ship locally known as ‘Mandil’.
This military police (MP) kept torturing people in the eyes of the public. This too much mistreatment through lashing of the civil population continued as to make a build-up of anger which reached the level of bitterness which caused public animosity against the whole force stationed amidst the population. Also, the force took the judicial role of the chiefs and courts, including the police work. In reality, the population remained groaning under very severe mistreatment and exploitation from this military police in the market. This issue of Scarf as the igniting cause require the army unit version to be taken by an investigation team. It was also reported that the secretary General of the defunct Tonj State Gabriel Awan Makuoc, came from Tonj town and empowered this Disarmament Unit by directing the four Executive Directors of Luanyjang defunct counties to be under the orders and responsibilities of Col. Philip Piol Ayuel, the commander of the Disarmament Force in Romich. This led the Disarmament force commander to usurp the role of the chiefs and courts. Col. Philip began to set up military courts, making the population to take their civil suit cases to the commander and his courts. The known due process of Law was no longer the case. Everything was on a run with high-handed extortion in money cows and goats/sheep/rams. Some people say this picture was necessary to curve the then grown intransigence within the population. Some chiefs and local administrators affirm that the population was becoming un-ruly.
The eruption point: –
By the 8th of August, 2020, at about 4:30 P.m., an igniting incident started when some elements of the (MP) at the market caught a young man by the name of Machiek Mador Chuor who was wearing a scarf (chal) cloth. They caught the scarf on his neck, tightly pulling him, nearly strangling him. While asking the almost strangled young man to give off the scarf, Machiek struggled and was able to run away after he had been assisted off by a number of his colleagues who helped him out from being strangled with the scarf by five soldiers who just swarmed him in the process.
As Machiek ran by a short distant, one of the five soldiers began to shoot at him. He was missed and instead shot at a different young man by the name of Kony Agok Aguer Adel, popularly known as Makendeer. Kong died instantly. The soldier who shot Kong needs to be established by an investigation team. The shooting, now by five soldiers from the military police also shot at another young man, Makol Ruop Majok. They shot him by the groin. The bullet penetrated the hip girdle and busted out on the other side of the hip.
As a result, the people in the market ran away from the shooting market place. Gelweng young men ran to the nearby cattle camps and villages to reach out for their rifles. Meanwhile, the force Cdr., Philip Piol, at his Rumabuth force Base, some 2.5km to the east of the incident place, ordered the arrest of those five Military police soldiers who made the shooting in the market. Those soldiers included a certain police, namely, Kocnoor Machok Akec–who later reported that the soldiers who did the shooting with him were five in number. The incident site (Romich Market) is about 2.5 Km from the Command Base where Cdr. Philip Piol was staying. There is an apparent delay on the part of the command, to react in order to control the incident at the bud! It took him more than an hour to order for the arrest of his soldiers who killed two civilians within the market, in the same town.
By about 06:40 P.m., three Gelweng young men, who ran away from the incident place, slouched themselves through the thick durra fields surrounding the army Base. There, they attacked the unit HQRS. This triggered heavy shooting from the forces’ Base where Cdr. Philip Piol was.
Meanwhile, those elements from the military police unit which made the shooting at the market were now on its way from the market towards the Base in Rumabuth. Rushing on a Thatcher vehicle, they opened fire (12.7 MM) on the county Administrators who gathered and wanted to go to the commander for how to stop the random shooting that was going on in the town. Unfortunately, the five shooting soldiers on the pick-up vehicle shot at one Payam Administrator by the name of Mathiang Mading Mathiang Makol at 07:41 P.M. With the killing of P.A. Mathiang, coupled with the use of artilleries and heavy bombardment, the nearby and far away Gelweng began to come in from different directions of Luacjang, increasing momentum over the night. Community elders who were still trying to intercede up to about 7:00 P.M. had to escape the fire power from the force and Gelweng.
Throughout the night, the battle raged on in its ferocity in and around Rumabuth, the army Base. The battle continued to gain momentum as Luanyjang Gelweng continued to slouch in from all over Luanyjang territory of four counties. Intermittently, the battle kept on until the dawn of August the 9th when the entire Luanyjang Gelweng had all come.
Then, the final and determined battle took place from 7:00 A.M. to about 9:00 when the force Cdr. Col. Philip Piol Ayuel, finally decided to withdraw with the remaining force. In the process of withdrawal, the force broke up and began to run in a disarray. Then, the fight stopped at about 11:00 A.M. the same morning of Sunday, on August 9th, 2020. It was perhaps during the chase that the force incurred more losses than when they were attacked and fought the battle at the base. As for Gelweng, its losses came heavy during the battle when the force was shooting, using heavy artilleries and battle tanks.
Details of the military equipment’s and items are contained in the report by four executive Directors of the four counties of Luanyjang. That list contains details of the 85 civilians killed and 93 wounded in the engagement. It also contain 63 soldiers killed and 48 soldiers wounded. A number of the wounded and non-wounded soldiers, who lost direction during the chase. The community later assisted these soldiers and brought them to the committee and Romich County police. Those soldiers were later dispatched to join their colleagues in Ngapagok where Colonel Philip and part of the Disarmament force are stationed currently.
The committee’s appeal to the population to bring the Army guns and other military equipment’s looted, yielded very positively. A good number of guns and artilleries were brought to the committee and to the county police. All these were handed over together with military Tanks and thatcher vehicles mounted with 12.7 MM.
The Go-Between Peace committee, on its arrival by mid-day of August, the 10th, held its first meeting with the county local government authorities for briefing on the incident. After the briefing, the committee resolved to first embark on the burial of the dead bodies that littered the entire circumference of Romich county HQRS town. Although this is against the local culture which does not allow war dead bodies to be buried, the committee had to do this for health reasons. Over a hundred dead bodies cannot rot inside the town without causing an outbreak of a disease, among which can be cholera.
While doing the burial, the committee gave out peace messages for Luanyjang community not to think of fighting again with their own government Army. Word went out for Luanyjang public to come tomorrow for a public rally. On August 12th, the committee had its first public rally with Luanyjang community. In his opening remarks, the Committee Chairman, Hon. (MP) Caguor Adong Manyang, went into outline the purpose of the committee, coming from both Juba and Tonj. Caguor told the gathering the committee regret for the fight between his community and the government army. ‘’The waste done on both sides’’, he said, ‘’is a big loss to the country’’. Caguor warned against the repeated of such a bad thing. He called on the chiefs and cattle camp heads to return the guns and all items they took from the army force that fought with them; also, their guns which were used during the fight with the army must be collected and stored in the houses of their chiefs as before because disarmament is a policy of the government; those young men who attacked army garrison must be disclosed when investigation committee comes and in addition, Hon. Caguor Adong added that the forces will still come back to continue with their mission of disarmament at any time, thus, Luanyjang community must be ready to welcome and receive the forces to maintain law and order in the area.
In the rally, members of the committee spoke in their terms. All spoke with the same appeal for the military items to be returned before the committee return to Tonj and Juba.
Responding to the committee, chiefs and youth’s headmen promised to collect back the looted military items. They explained that the fight was not planned, but a result of provocation from the Army military police when they killed their sons for no good reason.
By Sunday August 16th, the Governor of Warrap State visited Romich to hear for himself from Luanyjang community the cause of the fight and to add his voice on the importance of returning the looted military equipment and guns. The Governor listened to the security briefing from the Peace committee and from the Local Government Authorities. This was followed by him attending a public Rally where he listened to the chiefs and cattle camps’ Headmen. The Governor was assured by the chiefs of the community loyalty to the system. They re-iterated readiness to return the military equipment and guns. The Governor in his speech told the peace committee to continue to remain for seven more days in the area in order to further hammer on the community for the return of the looted military items.
Coming on a UNMISS Helicopter, the Governor returned to his state HQRS—Kuacjok, after an hour of his presence in Luanyjang.
By August 17th, the Peace committee held another meeting with all the chiefs of Luanyjang to further discuss ways and means of getting back the guns and military equipment from Gelweng. Strategies and approaches were agreed in this meeting. It was agreed that each chief goes to his peoples’ cattle camps along with committee members for talks with Gelweng in the cattle camps. This became fruitful as Gelweng youths began to bring the looted things to their chiefs, then to the committee.
On August 22.8.2020, the peace committee held its last meeting with the chiefs and Gelweng headmen in order to make an overall evaluation of the work done for the two weeks it spent in the area and what remained to be done still. It was found that the following military equipment and items were retrieved and handed over to the committee, which in turn handed them to the county Police and got their way to Deputy Head of the Mission Gen. Bol Akot Bol at Kur Lueth.
Below are the types and the quantities of the Guns and equipment which were collected from the community to the Peace committee and handed over to the Army are: –
- PKM—7 pieces
- RPG—7 pieces.
- 12.7 MM—7 pieces.
- 12.7 MM barrels—2.
- AKM rifles—13.
- Boxes of Ammos for 12.7—8 Boxes.
- Rounds (chain) of Ammos for 12.7—8 chain of bullets, some chains are short and others are long.
- RPGs shields—5 ( 3 are spoiled or without fuses)
- Tanks—3 (need repair).
- Six Thatchers (3 need repair).
- Jumbo Tank—1 (need repair Ladator & tyres).
- Tent—2 pieces.
- Boots—2 pair.
Committee observations and recommendations: –
1. From the primary findings and statements by witnesses at Romich market, the site of the incident, and the general public including the police, the fight that claimed 85 lives and 93 wounded from the civil community side, and about 63 lives and 48 wounded on the side of the forces of Disarmament in Romich County Centre, such an unfortunate fight did not relate to Disarmament at all. The fight was said to be about a small thing call scarf, a type of (Mandil) cloth call ‘Chal’ in Arabic. For this, see the report narrative above. An investigation committee is needed to prove in this, taking into account the army soldiers version. However, Luac public say there were underlying causes, which were compounded by an intensive torture that gradually made a build-up of public animosity against the force.
2. Although there was a wide spread bitterness against the force for too much flogging (lashing) on almost everyone in the market and other places in Romich, and what they call too much extortion of money and cattle, the igniting thing was the killing of un-armed and innocent young man (Makendeer), over the Mandil issue as described above. The shooting to the death of Makendeer went together with the shooting of another young man at the very market spot. This was and followed, an hour later, by the killing of the Payam Administrator P.A. Mathiang at the County HQRS by the same soldiers.
3. It was reported by the Prison Director in Romich that during the fight Gelweng youths broke into the prison where they released 25 prisoners who were imprisoned for different crimes. The committee urged the chiefs of Luanyjang to bring back to prison those prisoners as quickly as possible.
4. Luanyjang public genuinely felt sorry for having been compelled to fight with its own army. The fact that 48 wounded soldiers and 27 unwounded ones were rescued by the community is another indication of the community none intention to fight with their army. Listening to the peace committee for the return of the Army guns and items is another proof. The population do not want a bad such incident to repeat itself again. The community says they are ready to welcome the Army back to the area, provided that it is a different force with different command. The community also advised that any Army force to be brought to Luanyjang should not be stationed in the middle of the population.
5. The community has shown readiness to return any army guns and equipment which they left behind at the time of their withdrawal. Much of the heavy machine and light guns, as well as military vehicles, had already been received and sent to the force in one of their Bases at Ngapagok.
6. Luanyjang community remains loyal to the government and for this reason; the community is ready to disarm since it is a policy of the National government to disarm its civil populations. In this, Luanyjang community calls upon their government to carryout nationwide disarmament so that they do not become victims of their un-disarmed neighbouring communities.
7. Public bitterness against the way they suffered in the hands of their neighbouring communities plus the Army now appears so great that the committee advice that a peaceful and proper approach is to be adopted by the government and by the Army in dealing with Luanyjang Community.
8. Because there was a general looting in both Romich town and its big market, the inhabitants of Romich and its surrounding Suburbs plus Romich Market community are in an abject state of hunger as crops are yet to ripe. The committee calls upon the state Governor to call upon the Disaster Management and Relief Agencies to rush in medicines, food and non-food items to rescue the population of Romich, including the local government work force residing in this destroyed town.
9. Although over a hundred people died in the fight, the committee recommends that compensation should be made for one Darfur trader killed in the cross fire while at his shop. The committee is doing this recommendation because he is a foreigner.
10. Because the situation and distance of Luanyjang, Tonj East County in general, from Tonj town and the state capital Kuajok, with this near daily insecurity, the Committee request both the state and national governments to give special consideration, especially with regard to roads for accessibility to health Care, education and security services. Underdevelopment and lack of modern services is too pronounced in this county.
11. The committee strongly recommend that the government commits to deploy an equitable military force to the eastern borders of Luanyjang as a protective measure for the community and its cattle resources. This will stop Luanyjang movement with its cattle to Tonj and Wau-cok a big territorial move which it always does in search for water and green pastures for their cattle during dry season times.
12. Tonj-East, Rumbek-North, South-western Counties of Unity State, Northern
areas of Tonj-North County plus Gogrial-East and Eastern-Twic of Warrap,
really require special attention from the government of National Unity.
13. The committee urges national government to establish radio station in
Luanyjang area so as to preach and spread messages of peace, love and forgiveness among Luanyjang and with other neighbouring communities, because the community is so traumatized by the continuous fights from different directions; north, east, south and western parts of Luanyjang areas.
14. The committee also recommend the need for the state and national government to organize one community conference to be held in about November this year to address issues of community security, Luacjang on top.
15. The committee recommend that a real investigation committee be formed by the President of the republic to go to Luacjang in order to investigate the cause of this conflict since this report is a one sided report taken from the civil population. The army version is important for the truth to be stablished.
Signed by: –
Hon. Caguor Adong Manyang, MP TNLA, Representing Tonj East County Party List (SPLM), Republic of South Sudan—Juba.
Chairman, Go-Between Peace Committee for Luanyjang,
On behave of the peace committee.
- Rt. Hon. Speaker, TNLA.
- The Hon. Governor of Warrap State—Kuacjok.
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