South Sudan troops accused of second massacre in Central Equatoria
Government troops carried out a massacre of at least 11 villagers in Central Equatoria State within a week of an earlier killing of 10 civilians in the same state, according to a survivor and a relative of one of the victims.
The mass killing took place along the Yei-Lasu road behind Yei Resort hotel, a distance of one and half miles west of Yei town. The victims included youths and some women.
According to the survivor, a group of villagers including himself came to sell some food items at Lutaya Market and were arrested on their way back to their ancestral village called Goburu.
“We came from our village in Goburu to sell our maize and groundnuts while in exchange to buy salt, soap and other basic needs from Lutaya Market,” he said.
While on their way back from the market the villagers were stopped by government soldiers in uniform. The witness described to Radio Tamazuj what happened next.
“On our return back to the village, just behind Yei resort hotel in Lutaya area, a group of armed men in government uniform jumped from a near bush stopped us and asked us whether we were rebels or not, we told them that we were civilians who came to the town for market and we are going home.”
“They ordered us to sit down and all of us were twelve of course including some women. They insisted that we were supporters of rebels. They took us to nearby grass-thatched tukul along the road, tied up our hands, shot at each of us and luckily enough my bullet fell into my arm and I fell down. They thought that we were all dead.”
He continued, “They locked up the room and set it ablaze and escaped. I was inside and waited for the other side of the roof to fall down and I managed to find my way out of the fire and the eleven [other] of us all died on spot.”
Meanwhile, a relative to one of the victims confirmed to Radio Tamazuj that they have just come from a burial of one of his relatives who died in the same incident. “We have just come from a mass burial of our relatives at Emmanuel Cemetery; we have buried five of them in the same grave.”
The grieving family member added, “We also saw some of the victims still lying at the Yei civil hospital mortuary because it’s difficult to identify them since some of them burnt completely.”
The state government could not comment on the matter. Earlier the army declared that all areas five miles beyond Yei town are no-go areas under military operations. A church bishop said earlier this week he had been told by the army that outlying villages lay within a “condemned area” and banned him from visiting parishioners there.
SPLA troops were separately accused by an Episcopal cleric of another massacre on 31 October, just one week before this latest reported massacre. Ten villagers were killed at Kalipapa village on that date in Kwerijik Bungu Payam located about 38 miles west of the capital Juba.
Commenting on the latest rise in violence in the Yei area, Catholic Bishop Erkulano Ladu Tombe said that relations between civilians and army have reached a low point.
“The relationship between the army and the civilians was very good but since the beginning of April the relationship begun going from bad to worse and the plea of the people is that why are the new army brought from that has spoiled their relationship and why was it sent to kill people?” said the bishop.
Erkulano condemned the unnecessary killings of civilians saying there is need to observe the rule of law.
Another cleric, Bishop Hilary Luate Adeba of the Yei Diocese, said in an interview with Radio Tamazuj that the citizens in Yei are currently living in fear. “The citizens inside Yei are living in deep fear, they don’t know what is happening, because there are security around Yei and inside Yei itself but we see that the security situation is not good.”
He pointed out that the villages are cut off from the town. “At night nobody can sleep… if we get up alive in the morning we thank God,” he said.
Separately, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng yesterday warned of the risk of genocide in Yei and elsewhere in South Sudan following a visit to the town.
He said at a media briefing, “The gravity of the situation in Yei merits immediate intervention – a full scale fact-finding investigation and enhanced humanitarian support. The population has been forced into town without access to food and they and the refugee population which Yei hosts are suffering.”
“Yei is but one urgent example among many. The signs are all there for the spread of this ethnic hatred and targeting of civilians that could evolve into genocide, if something is not done now to stop it. I urge the people of South Sudan to take action.”