Regional clergies disapprove of move to send soldiers to Upper Nile

A group of religious leaders from Upper Nile region has said though the government’s decision to deploy unified forces in the region is a good move, it does not approve of it.

Several reports suggest that the clashes between SPLA-IO factions loyal to generals Johnson Olony and Simon Gatwech are ongoing in Fashoda and Manyo counties in Upper Nile State.

Over 9,000 civilians, mainly women and children, have fled to the neighboring areas, according to the UNOCHA.

On Wednesday, the Office of the President said the C-in-C had directed the Chief of Defense Forces to deploy the unified forces in the region to stop the fighting.

But the Upper Nile Religious Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation disagrees, saying “Violence does not solve violence.”

The clergies argue that sending more soldiers to the ground in the name of stopping the fighting will not do any help, but rather worsen the situation.

“We don’t encourage violence because violence does not solve the issues. it makes it more complicated. So we don’t call to settle the issue using the same means – violence with violence. It does not solve it,” Fr. Paulina Tipo Deng, chairperson, told reporters in Juba on Thursday.

Instead, the religious group appealed to the government to instead initiate a dialogue between the warring parties.

“We call [on the government] to find other better ways…to settle [this conflict]. For example a dialogue between the warring parties,” he added.

Until late 2021, forces loyal to Gen Olony and Gen Gatwech were under SPLM-IO splinter group called Kitgwang faction. It’s unclear why they turned against each other.

The two have been fighting against government forces. The religious leaders said sending SSPDF to the area could worsen the situation.

However, Fr. Tipo appealed to the two parties to “stop the bloodshed”.