18 January 2012 – The commissioner of the Jonglei State county of Akobo told a visiting team of UNMISS staff members today that a comprehensive civilian disarmament campaign can be implemented in the strife-torn state to restore a measure of peace and stability.
“The moment I tell my people to hand in their guns, they will definitely do it,” said Goi Jooyul Yol. “The government should conduct disarmament in exchange for…security.”
The most populous state in South Sudan has been racked by inter-communal fighting and rebel militia activity for much of the past 12 months, and Mr. Yol blamed the continuing violence in Jonglei on child abductions, cattle rustling, revenge attacks and the operations of militia members who once fought under the late rebel leader George Athor.
The county commissioner cautioned that a successful disarmament exercise had to be carried out simultaneously in all of the state’s 11 counties to avert raids by communities still possessing firearms against vulnerable civilian settlements who had complied with the campaign.
He said that more police and military forces should be deployed in the aftermath of such a campaign to deter crime and shield freshly disarmed civilians from renewed attack.
Mr. Yol also recommended that all weapons collected by authorities be destroyed to avoid their re-use by civilians in the future.
Gabriel Majok Bhar of the Akobo County Youth Association urged young South Sudanese to heed their government’s calls to end the violence and warned that some of the root causes of the recent attacks in Jonglei would remain in the absence of an effective disarmament exercise.
“If disarmament is not done, cattle rustling will continue as a means of acquiring more guns,” said Mr. Bhar, noting that one AK-47 assault rifle can be acquired in exchange for three cows.
“We are an independent country, (so) these revenge attacks among the people of Jonglei do not make sense,” he added.