OurSouthSudan – Chollo Community Council would like to express their gratitude and appreciation to IGAD representatives for accepting our humble request to meet you, so that we can once again express our grievances, ironically and sadly, against our own government.
1. Historical note about Chollo’s problem:
Padang Jieng began to claim Chollo ancestral lands on eastern side of White Nile and Sobat Rivers in late 1970s. These unfounded claims seem to have during much part of the SPLM war. But they resurfaced towards the end of war period particularly in Panyigur meeting, where the Padang Jieng claims were strongly challenged and eventually silenced by the late Dr. John Garang, with historical facts that stopped were in favour of Chollo.
After the untimed death of Dr. John Garang in 2005, the SPLM government led by President Salva Kiir, decided to implement Padang Jieng’s agenda by force using the national army – SPLA. Army units were established in Chollo villages. The distance between every adjacent units was just four (4) kilometers. The so-called enemy army was not deployed in that intensity. The soldiers were harassing, terrorizing citizens at gun point and raping girls and women.
The hidden objective was to pressurize Chollo people to abandon and evacuate their ancestral land to make it free for Padang Jieng to occupy.
Further, from 2005 until the death of Gen George Athor, government forces South of Malakal town prevented members of Chollo community from building their houses under the pretext that those areas were still operational military zones. While at the same time Padang Jieng were being encouraged to build in the same locations.
2. Chollo Land grabbed:
The official land grabbing started in 2009, when President Salva Kiir issued a decree annexing Chollo Land in Pijo to Padang Jieng without consulting Chollo living there. Presidential decree No 36:2015 added salt to injury by annexing all Chollo lands east of White Nile and Sobat rivers to Padang Jieng. Indeed, misuse of presidential powers and armed provocations by Padang Jieng militias led Chollo community to arm themselves in defense of their ancestral land especially after appeals from Chollo politicians to the government of President Kiir fell on deaf ears.
3. Involvement of Chollo community in the current war:
a) Initially Chollo community was not a party to this mad war. Chollo was intentionally dragged into it by the warring communities of Jieng and Nuer. These two were quarrelling over party and government leadership in Juba. Instead of confining their quarrel to Juba and their tribal areas they exported it to Malakal and surrounding Chollo areas killing anybody in sight. The harrowing tragedies and tribulations that occurred in Malakal compelled many members of Chollo community to take arms to protect themselves from the merciless killers invading their land.
b) When Chollo deserted Malakal town to seek peace and safety on the western side of the Nile the Nuer and Dinka couldn’t spare them. Both tribes crossed after Chollo. Chollo had no choice but to fight back in self-defense.
c) What is taking place in Chollo kingdom now is the government of South Sudan implementing the well planned strategy of uprooting Chollo community from their ancestral land in fulfillment of the unfounded claims of Padang Jieng. The strategy is also being implemented in many forms, all of which are negatively affecting Chollo community.
The infamous land grabbing order No 36/2015 is one way towards that dirty strategy. The bloody incident of 17and 18 February 2016, which took, at least forty (40), innocent lives of Chollo civilians inside the UN Protection Camp in Malakal is another. Bombarding and destroying Wau Chollo/Shilluk and surrounding villages in which many citizens were killed and injured using war planes from a neighbouring country is an ethnic cleansing act feeding into the strategy. In fact no known place where there is Chollo gathering is left by the government of President Kiir. Kodok, Tonga and more recently Aboroj were fiercely attacked and destroyed.
As result of those war crimes many innocent civilian lives were lost, and the few survivors deserted those places in desperate need for safety until they reached South Kordofan and White Nile states of Sudan. They now live miserably in the camps of Liri and Khor Worrol and others in different places.
4. Way forward:
a) Cancellation of presidential order 36/2015 and return to ten states with borders as of 1/1/1956 is the starting point towards a permanent solution. This will give back Chollo grabbed land on both sides of the White Nile and the Sobat rivers. This redress of grievances may slowly restore the broken trust between the neighbouring tribes of Chollo and Padang Jieng.
b) This baseless war must be brought to an end by all means through intervention of UN, International Communities, AU and IGAD.
c) The current government should be dissolved and a new five-year Transitional Government is formed, without President Kiir and Dr. Machar, to establish rule of law institutions, make a constitution and hold free and fair general elections. As community, we see that peace can’t be achieved in South Sudan if the government of Salva Kiir remains in power, because it was the one that created that war and it is one resisting peace initiatives all the time.
d) Dr Machar should account for Chollo girls and women his forces abducted from Malakal in 2014.
e) Both President Kiir and Dr Machar should answer for war crimes and genocide against Chollo civilians. President Kiir used war planes and chemical weapons against unarmed civilians while Dr Machar ordered pulling dead bodies into White Nile River in Malakal after killing them in large numbers.
f) To restore the broken relationship between warring communities, the reconciliation and social healing processes must be carried out by neutral body that will be acceptable to all warring parties.
g) The International Community should urgently rehabilitate Wau PoC and Aboroj camp, fence them and deploy strong protection forces there to accommodate the few elderly and vulnerable Chollo who still remain in Chollo land to save their lives because the government of President Kiir is still targeting them.
Best wishes and regards for your team.
Samson Oyay Awin
Chollo Community Council, Khartoum Sudan
CC. UN Secretary General, New York.
CC. AU, Addis Abab, Ethiopia,
CC. Troika Countries.
CC. International Community.
CC. Chollo Community in Diaspora