Over 2,500 armed rebel youth surrender to government in South Sudan

June 9, 2017 Africa , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

south-sudan

Trevor Snapp

 

By

Gift Friday

 

The mayor of South Sudan’s Yambio municipality stated that over 2,500 armed youth formerly allied to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLA IO) in Gbudue state have so far surrendered to the government over the last five months.

Sinigira Robert said that some 50 local vigilantes known as the Arrow Boys accepted an unconditional offer of amnesty from president Salva Kiir, returning yesterday from Ezo County. The Mayor said the armed youth in Gbudue and Tambura states are responding positively to President Kiir’s amnesty offer.

Fighting broke out in the former Western Equatoria State in 2015 between the government and local armed vigilantes called the Arrow Boys leaving hundreds dead and thousands displaced from their villages.

“The roughest figure I can give you is about 2,500 and yesterday we received forty nine youth from Ezo, willingly came out because they heard of the amnesty and the unilateral ceasefire declared by the President. Above all it’s our peace mission we have been leading in the state [that made them come out.] They heard and responded positively and we are grateful to that and we have welcomed them highly,” Singira said.

Singira also said that Gbudue state has been peaceful in the last five months with no sound of gunfire. He stated that officials are doing everything in their powers to achieve lasting peace in the area. But Singira decried that the state has no money to facilitate the integration of former armed youth.

“There are a lot of challenges keeping these people, feeding and treating them in case of sickness and major ones, the government is struggling to make sure that they deliver what it can, however the government is facing a lot of financial crises that we call upon our partners who are advocating for peace and reconciliation to come in our aid and help us,” he said.

Singira said the Arrow Boys, who are surrendering to the government, will be treated like other armed groups in the area that have signed agreements with the government.

Michael Arkangelo, a former vigilante, at the rank of brigadier, said he rebelled against the government since 2015 in Ezo County, because he felt authorities did not recognize the important role the Arrow Boys played in the former Western Equatoria state. He stressed that others who rebelled against the government felt they were being marginalized in society, adding that he was in the SPLA since 1990 and spent 11 years in Eritrea without being promoted even to the rank of a corporal, but said he has given up fighting the government.

“What made us come is that the president gave amnesty to all of us. That is what made us come out even though we don’t want our state to continue suffering; we need peace in our country,” said Arkangelo. Arkangelo urged other vigilantes in the bush to accept President Kiir’s offer of amnesty and work to develop the state.

Justin Richard Zacharia, also at the rank of brigadier, said he rebelled against the government because he too felt his Zande ethnic group was marginalized. He revealed that he was among the soldiers who came with Former First Vice President, Riek Machar from Pagak, to Juba last year. He said that he defected back to the government and returned to Yambio following President Kiir’s first offer of unconditional amnesty last year.

“Everyone should think about the future of our children, the future of our state, and the future of  our country a new country, all we are doing can’t take us anywhere, we have to come back as nationals are solve our problems; guns can’t solve any problem,” he said.

Ahmed Bashir, the chair person of a Gbudue State based NGO called Civil Society Human Rights stated that “We would like to welcome their decision because what the community needs now is peace, they need peace immediately, they needed peace yesterday even. If peace is established in western Equatoria it is not enough, all of us need to have peace in the entire South Sudan in order to develop interstate development and security.”

Bashir said the groups’ decision to give up arms will help restore peace in the area and advise them to resolve all their grievances against the government using peaceful means. “Let them have a comprehensive discussion with the government and they can control their forces as well as the government controls their forces to avoid clashes; any killings, any unrest, any arbitrary arrests and disappearances. If they go this way we shall have confidence,” Bashir added.

Some of the former rebel fighters who accepted President Kiir’s amnesty offer include former Yambio County Commissioner Angelo Bakote, Mbiko Barakati, former Yambio Chambers of Commerce Chairperson, and former spokesperson of the Arrow Boys, Paul Romano, who retuened to Yambio last month.

 

 

 

gift-friday

Gift Friday

Freelance Journalist from South Sudan, based in Kampala.

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