Bari community calls for withdrawal of SSPDF soldiers from Mangala
AUTHOR: Daniel Garang Deng | PUBLISHED: December 31, 2022
Bari Community leaders, Chairperson Stephen Pitia Lako (Middle) addressing the press on Friday 30, Dec 2022.
(Photo: Daniel Garang Deng/ TRC
The Bari community in Central Equatoria State has called for the withdrawal of the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces in Mangala Payam of Juba County, saying the army is causing more harm than good in the area.
On 26 December, SSPDF Spokesperson Maj.-Gen. Lul Ruai issued a statement declaring offensive operations against the alleged NAS rebel forces in the area.
“To ensure the faithfuls celebrate the festive season in peace, mobile infantry units stormed NAS bases, resulting in the neutralisation of five rebels, and the recovery of 30 rounds for 82 MM. A NAS base that had 1,000 individual trenches was also captured,” Lul said.
“Finally, SSPDF [would] like to assure the people of South Sudan that our forces are still carrying out offensive operations to flash out NAS rebels on several islands they have been occupying between Juba and Mangala.”
In response to the statement, the community refutes any presence of NAS rebels in the area, terming the statement “a concocted story”.
“They are saying that we are NAS without [evidence]. What proof do they have that we are NAS? It is actually a story concocted to implicate the Bari people because they rebels are Bari,” Stephen Pitia Lako, chairperson of Bari community, told reporters on Friday.
He revealed that the SSPDF soldiers in Mangala are restricting the locals from moving freely and are also causing insecurity in the area.
“We call for the withdrawal of SSPDF from the Eastern and Western sides of River Nile (Bhar el Jebel or locally called supiri River) as they are posing insecurity and preventing the movement of people and goods,” Pitia explained.
“We also call for the investigation of the baseless statement issued by Major General Lul Ruai Koang, the SSPDF spokesperson, for labeling our Bari village people as NAS rebels”
The community appeals to the president to intervene and order the cessation of military operations in the area.
“We urgently urge the President, the Commander in Chief of the SSPDF, and the Supreme Commander of all Organized Forces to direct all the security organs to immediately cease the unwarranted offensive operations against our innocent Bari people in all the Bari land,” Pitia added.
The SSPDF is yet to comment on the concerns.
The National Salvation Front (NAS) is a rebel group led by General Thomas Cirilo Swaka.
It’s a non-signatory to the September 2018 revitalized peace agreement.
Gen Cirilo, a Bari, could not ink the peace accord, arguing that it did not address the real issues affecting the country, including land grabbing and corruption.