Map of South Sudan
Map of South Sudan

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN - A local civil society activist in South Sudan’s Gbuduwe state said this week that violence was on the rise in Yambio County.

Ahmed Bashir said that over the last two weeks, at least four people had been shot and killed outside Yambio town. The Gbuduwe state police commissioner said security had been increased in the area.

Bashir, chairman of the Human Rights Forum in Gbuduwe state, said recent killings by unknown gunmen had sparked fears among residents.

“There are a lot of  killings in houses, despite the fact there is peace," Bashir said. "SSNLM [the South Sudan National Liberation Movement] signed [a] peace [agreement] with [the] government. It is of high concern, because now each and every community member is scared, living in fear because they think, 'Tomorrow for him and today for me.' We don’t know why these killings [are happening] or who is doing this.”

Earlier this month, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Rotto Zeni, 59, and his wife, Antonita Rotto, 55, in Baakiwiri on the outskirts of Yambio town. Rotto Zeni was an ethnic Azande writer and a veteran teacher in the former Western Equatoria state.

Two youths were also shot in the Saura residential area. One of the youths died immediately. The other sustained serious gunshot wounds and is recovering at Yambio hospital.

Peace agreement pushed

Bashir called on state officials to speed up implementation of the peace agreement signed by Gbuduwe state government leaders and a faction of a vigilante group known as the Arrow Boys.

"We need peace in order to cultivate, and [have] our children in school," he said. "As human rights activists, we don’t want an eye for an eye. We need rule of law. That is what we call for.”

Gbuduwe state's police commissioner, Major General James Monday Enoka, acknowledged that several killings had taken place in Yambio during the last two weeks. Enoka said police had arrested suspects who would soon be charged.

“Seventeen suspects have been arrested by the police, and investigations are going on," he said. "These are criminal cases. As you know, crimes are at social [gatherings], and there are no areas where there are no guns.”

Enoka said the suspects would appear in court to answer questions under oath and be given the chance to prove their innocence. He said he was trying to assure the public that the security situation in the state was under control.

“Everything is normal," he said. "We encourage all people who want to visit the state to visit us, because the security situation is good. And people are doing their cultivations; now we have plenty of maize in the market, and ground nuts.”

Enoka said there were no reported cases of looting along the busy Yambio, Maridi and Mundri routes that supply the state with goods from Juba and East Africa.