Jonglei State, News

Pochalla unrest: Anyuak King demands investigation

By Manas James


King of Anyuak people, Akwai Nyiguo Akwai, has voiced frustration over the government’s lack of intervention to address the root causes of the ongoing conflict in Pochalla County.

Clashes between SSPDF soldiers and armed Anyuak civilians, which began on 18 September, have resulted in numerous casualties and the displacement of thousands, particularly women and children, who are now residing in surrounding villages and neighboring Ethiopia without access to essential resources.

The conflict was ignited by the killing of Col. Okony Okwom Othow, the former SSPDF commander in Pochalla, at his residence by fellow soldiers.

In a statement to the media on Monday, King Akwai, representing the Anyuak’s Gooc Royal Dynasty, expressed a sense of betrayal and demanded the launch of an investigation into the Pochalla crisis.

He highlighted the expectation that an investigation committee would be formed to gather information from the affected communities and find a resolution.

“We intervened to stop the fighting when it erupted following the killing of Okony. We assumed an investigation committee would visit us to collect our perspectives,” said King Akwai.

“Instead, we feel neglected, as if our contributions to independence and the use of our land as a sanctuary during Anyanya 1, Anyanya 2, and SPLA, were disregarded. Additionally, some individuals have been armed by the GPAA government, and they are now fighting against us in our own territories. Is providing weapons to one side a solution? We are deeply disappointed and will not move from our lands. Here, we shall perish.”

King Akwai further emphasized that the Pochalla unrest has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation.

“Since 2005, the lack of development has compelled our people to seek education and health services in Ethiopia. Now, this imposed war threatens to cause further destruction. This is evident by the discovery of 12 bodies of victims of airstrikes conducted by gunships yesterday.”

The Anyuak leader, who has a personal acquaintance with President Salva Kiir through their shared history in the Anyanya and SPLA movements, expressed the desire for peace to allow for agricultural activities.

He proposed separating the Anyuak from Greater Pibor as a means to achieve stability and prosperity.

Sunday Andrew Cham, the chief of Ajwara, also echoed the call for dialogue to address the Pochalla crisis.

He emphasized that their people had never before engaged in conflict against any government and urged the formation of a nonpartisan committee to investigate the issue on the ground.

Charles Wello Onyony, the representative of Pochalla in the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA), warned of the escalating violence in the region.

He revealed that a combined force of approximately 150 Pibor youth and SSPDF soldiers had already reached Achwaa village under Ajwara Payam.

Wello said that he communicated this concerning development to the military leadership but received a response indicating that there was little they could do, advising him to approach the president directly.

As the situation in Pochalla County continues to deteriorate, urgent action is required to address the grievances and provide necessary assistance to the affected population.

The concerns raised by leaders like King Akwai highlight the need for comprehensive investigations and dialogue to find a peaceful resolution and prevent further suffering.

The Anyuak or Anuak, are a Luo-speaking ethnic group found primarily in the South Sudanese region of Upper Nile and the Gambela region of western Ethiopia. They are part of the larger Luo ethnic group, which includes other sub-groups such as the Collo (Shilluk), Acholi, Alur, Jo Padhola, Luo of Bahr el Ghazal, and the Luo in Kenya.

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