Thirty people killed, as disarmament turn to violence in Tonj

Illegal arms collected in Tonj, PHOTO credited: UNMISS

Multiple eyewitnesses in Tonj East County said more than thirty people have been killed when armed youth clashes with soldiers over the weekend.

The incident started on Saturday between armed youth and members of the disarmament team in Romic, Tonj East county headquarters.

An eye witness said the clashes were triggered by the killing of the local chief’s son who was allegedly shot dead by soldiers carrying out the disarmament.

It is not clear what led to the soldiers to open fire on civilians but eyewitnesses who spoke to Mayardit FM said it started over the headscarf, which the soldiers want to remove by force from civilians.

The headscarf was allegedly used to identify the group of youth during the violence differently.

Some residents in Tonj spoke to Mayardit FM said twenty civilians killed and ten soldiers reported lost their lives in the clashed.

Residents accused the disarmament soldiers of torturing civilians and forceful disarmament.

We were told that the guns were to be collected by our chiefs and hand over to the soldiers, but now it is the soldiers to collect from us by force. Human rights abuses have taken place because civilians’ elbows are being tied at the back when you are found carrying guns or suspected having a gun, citizens stated.”

The State authority was not available for comment.

However, the spokesperson of South Sudan People Defense Forces -SSPDF said there were causalities during the incident but declined to reveal the figures.

Major General Lul Ruai Koang promised that army would investigate the cause of the incident and account for the perpetrators.

People who started the fighting shall be questioned, and justice shall take place over them. That death is not connected to disarmament exercise but an isolation matter. The members of the disarmament team were rescuing the situation.”

Some residents said the massive number of people, mostly women, and children displaced from their homes 

Social media users have shared pictures of people displaced in the recent violence caused by the disarmament campaign. 

However, Chiefs and local Administrators directed to collecting guns from the hands of civilians in a period of ten days until Friday next week in Lakes State.

Governor: Makur Kulang said local authorities should engage youth to obeys the directives, warned that the peaceful disarmament campaign could turn to the use of force if the civilian failed to surrender their weapons.

South Sudan People Defense Forces-SSPDF launched the disarmament exercise in Tonj North County of Warrap state and Lakes, targeting armed civilians

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