Jonglei State, News

Pochalla clashes leave 10 dead, 8 injured

By Charles K. Mark

Acting Commissioner of Pochalla South County, Owiti Olung, said relative calm has returned to the area after the fierce fighting between the army and armed youth.

Intensified clashes ensued on September 17, resulting in the killing of a former area South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) commander.

Olung said the SSPDF deployed heavy artillery, shelling and bombing using gunships to deter the armed youth from overrunning the military base, claiming ten lives and injuring eight.

He said the gunfire subsided on Tuesday, September 19, 2023.

Olung alleged that there was an intervention from Juba with a senior unidentified government official who convinced them (the armed youth) to remain in their base.

He revealed that Juba is planning to send a helicopter and airlift the wounded soldiers to Juba for treatment.

“For them, it is the area commander who knows the military who were wounded and the people who have died,” Owiti said, adding, “we have eight people wounded and ten who have died.”

He said efforts are underway to coordinate negotiations between the two antagonistic parties.

He said since the fighting broke out, the town has deserted, there is no safety, and women and girls who ran to villages continue to face challenges.

“Me and organized forces were here in my home, and they were also there in the barracks. The people are suffering in the villages where they ran. There are no girls or women,” Olung narrated to No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper.

He also confirmed the destruction of one thousand five hundred (1,500) households by the SSPDF as a result of their aerial bombardment with helicopters and RPGs.

Olung stated that they have attempted to communicate their concerns to the presidency regarding the dire state of the army in Pochalla, but have not received any response.

“So, there’s not yet any feedback from the presidency. We have two years without a salary. Salary for Greater Pochalla and the government for GPA was stopped, and the soldiers have not been paid for two years,” the Acting Commissioner said.

South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) spokesperson, Gen. Lul Ruai Koang, confirmed Wednesday that the army used helicopters during combat with armed youth in Pochalla County of the Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA).

“The use of air power by the army is ‘justified’ after the armed youth breached the southern part of the defensive trenches dug by the SSPDF troops located in the area,” he said.

Meanwhile, rights activist Edmond Yakani, executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), condemned the act of confrontation between the two parties.

He urged the national parliament and the leadership of the country to summon the defense minister to answer questions about the excessive use of power against the Anyuak youth.

“Yes, this is a military confrontation. We have no more opinion around it, but we are urging that we abstain from the use of violent confrontation,” Yakani urged.

The activist appealed to the Pochalla youth to detest violence and find amicable ways of addressing their grievances.

The situation remains unpredictable in Pochalla South County since the armed youth clashed with the SSPDF following the death of Col. Joseph Okony Okwom Othow.

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