WFP uncertain when it will resume work in Jonglei and Lakes states

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April 27, 2011 (JUBA/KAMPALA) – The UN’s World Food Programme has said it will only resume work in Jonglei state once stability has returned to the area. A WFP official was killed in an ambush on April 22, leading the organisations activities being suspended in seven of Jonglei’s 11 counties.

Amor Almagro, WFP’s Sudan public information officer said the humanitarian organization has working in close collaboration with state authorities to ensure that the culprits are apprehended. He said that WFP would resume providing relief once the situation in the state has been normalised.

"It’s difficult to say when WFP is likely to uplift suspension of its operations in the seven out of 11 counties in Jonglei state. Only when order is restored that the organization will resume normal operations," Almagro said from Khartoum.

All WFP’s activities in Lakes state have been suspended after a truck with carrying 16 metric tons of food assistance for school children was commandeered by the South Sudan army on April 19.

Mary Abiong Nyok, the Director General for in the Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management ministry, described the gruesome incident as "regrettable", adding that a team of Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) had launched an investigation into the killings in Jonglei.

"Our team from the monitoring department have began an investigation into the matter. We sincerely express our condolences to the family," Nyok told Sudan Tribune by phone on Wednesday.

One of the survivals of April 22 ambush in Duk County, Jonglei state were a senior World Food Programme (WFP) official perished describes the attack as “well calculated” in an email to Sudan Tribune.

“The event [ambush] was sad and a bad first time experience,” s Thon Garang a JAM employee as Commodity Assistant said.

Unknown gunmen ambushed the WFP car last week in Jonglei state’s Duk county killing Santino Piggo Wani who had worked there as senior Programme assistance on a mission with members of another junior partner — Joint Aid Management (JAM).

Garang said their car left Twic East county headquarters at Panyagoor on Friday April 22 at about 9am heading to Mareng, the headquarters of Duk county for general food distribution in a convoy of WFP vehicles. At Mareng, they were joined by officials from South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) and received a briefing from the late Santino, he said.

After the meeting, they started another journey for Pajut where they intended to spend the night before returning to Mareng the following day. Being security conscious, local SSRRC official in Duk county, Deng Samuel, asked for a police escort. Three policemen were provided.

“In the front seats were Mr. Deng [SSRRC official] and late Santino Pigga plus Isaac Barasa [the driver],” Garang said. Other three four men, including Garang were in back seats.

Garang said they travelled slowly because of the bad road but “In the middle of the forest, we heard of many guns sounds shooting at us and [people] shouting.” The passengers jumped down from the vehicles and the police escorting them fired back at the attackers until they retreated. He said that the seven attackers were dressed in green army uniforms.

“They might had seen us from a distant and then calculated their ambush very well. It was sad that we lost our colleague in cold blood and indeed a very sad experience,” he said.

South Sudan peacefully voted to secede from the north in January in a referendum. Since then the region has been marred by series a series of rebellions.

According to UN estimates almost 1,000 people have been killed in violence in South Sudan since January. The conflict has displaced around 100,000 southerners.