C. Equatoria: Two pastoralist chiefs arrested over Lokiliri killings
Two chiefs from the Dinka Bor pastoralist community have been arrested and transported to Juba to help with investigations into the killing of five people over the weekend in Central Equatoria State’s Lokiliri Payam, a local official said.
Michael Francis, the Lokiliri Payam Director, told Radio Tamazuj that two chiefs were transported to the capital Juba. He confirmed the villagers were attacked and killed by a group of armed pastoralists who were dislodged from Eastern Equatoria State and settled in Central Equatoria territories.
“They were killed in cold blood on Saturday, and we have not buried them. These people were killed by armed cattle keepers,” Michael said. “The dead were found sitting in their house and were shot at by the armed men, five of them died, and six others were injured, and one is still missing up to today.”
He said the security situation in Lokiliri is still tense, but that security forces are on the ground to track down the perpetrators of the killings.
“We managed to apprehend two chiefs from the cattle camps in the area to help in tracking the perpetrators, and they were arrested and taken to Juba,” he said. “Currently, the security personnel are tracking the perpetrators.”
Central Equatoria State Governor Emmanuel Adil gave the pastoralists a 72-hour ultimatum to leave the state following the killing on Saturday in Ngerjebe village of Lokiliri Payam in Juba County.
In a strongly worded statement, Governor Adil said all cattle herders from the neighbouring Jonglei State should leave unconditionally within 72 hours or face forceful eviction because their presence is harmful to the state.
“The security organs in the state are directed to immediately track the perpetrators for apprehension to face the law,” said the statement issued by the Central Equatoria State information ministry. “The committee visited the scene of the incident and met the displaced population and further assured them of the government’s commitment to end their plight, especially the unwarranted displacement, destruction of crops, and looting of their property.”
The Central Equatoria government has also urged the affected communities to remain calm.
“Governor Adil urges the communities of the state to be calm but vigilant as the government is taking drastic measures to salvage the situation,” the statement added.
For his part, Victor Batali, a human rights advocate working for the Center for Peace and Justice, condemned the attack and urged the state parliament and the executive to bring the recurrent attacks on civilians and farmers to an end.
“This is an act of terrorism and is inhumane, and the Central Equatoria State government needs to find a lasting solution and these crimes need to be tried in courts,” he said. “Many of these cattle herders have arms. Who is supplying them with these weapons?” he asked. “Parliament should summon the SSPDF’s Chief of Defense Forces to answer questions on the unlawful carrying of arms.”
In the last few years, there have been amplified tensions between pastoralists and farmers and in 2017, President Salva Kiir ordered all cattle herders to leave the Equatoria region, but the order has never been firmly implemented.