Muluak Extortion Violates Peace Agreement
By Christopher Sebit
Muluak is located at a short distance drive from Nesitu on the road to Lirya. For nearly three weeks now, disturbing reports about harassment of travellers and extortion of their belongings by soldiers garrisoned at Muluak have caused tensions and alarms among the Lokoya, Lulubo and state authorities—signaling the emerging symptoms of the return to square of the debilitating conflict if no serious measures taken to quickly address the situation.
The author has interacted with a number of Lokoya who said they have undergone the process of harassment and extortion at Muluak. One of them is Alfred Legge, a relative of the author. Legge reported that soldiers attempted to seize his bag of sorghum or dura on the alleged ground that he was taking it to the rebels, but after a great deal of persuasion by national security personnel based at Nesitu and his convincing argument, they returned the bag to him.
On 29th July 2019, Chief Augustino Loyok of Lirya and Abraham Ohide, chairperson of the standing committee on security, public order and human rights in Lirya County Legislative Assembly encountered harassment and extortion. According to them, the soldiers searched through their luggage and questioned Chief Loyok for possessing the sum of SSP 400,000. They accused him to be coming to Juba to buy food for the rebels with the money in his possession. They returned the money and allowed Loyok, Ohide and the rest of the passengers to continue with their journey after a lengthy persuasion by the national security and state authorities.
And in a related development, on the same date 29th July 2019, the car of the National Legislative Assembly used by Emedio Marcellino Dere was blocked and subjected to thorough search at Muluak. The soldiers attempted to extort some few food items they found in the car. They claimed that the food items are being taken to the rebels. With pressure from the national security and the state authorities, they released the food items and permitted the car to go to Ngulere.
What is happening at Muluak is questionable as far as implementation of the R-ARCSS is concerned. Why extortion and harassment taking place at this crucial time of implementing the revitalized peace agreement? Section (18.104.22.168.) (22.214.171.124.8.) of the R-ARCSS says that there should be free movement of citizens, commodities and services. Article 27 (1) of the TCSS, 2011 provides that every citizen shall have the right to freedom of movement. Therefore, Muluak extortion violates the peace agreement, TCSS, 2011 and the International Humanitarian and Human Rights Laws.
Movement of citizens, commodities and services between Lirya and Juba is largely restricted through harassment and extortion of commodities on alleged understanding that the civilians are involved in extending food commodities and other essential supplies to the rebels. This is a false serious accusation endangering the life of our innocent poor civilians who are surviving on meager food commodities purchased from Juba almost on daily basis. There are no rebels in Lirya County! There is peace in Lirya County. Our people advocate peaceful settlement of the conflict through dialogue, not through violence.
Our people, the Lokoya are patriots. They boldly and patriotically defended their villages against external invaders: Turks and Ansars. They were gallant freedom fighters in Anyanya One and SPLA/M wars. Their distinguished contribution in the liberation wars makes them peace makers and builders.
Restricting the movement of civilians, commodities and services is going to harm our people, the peace makers, to the extent of forcing many, if not all of them, to migrate to Juba or elsewhere in eastern Equatoria. At the time of the liberation struggle, many of people were forced by hunger to leave their villages and came for sanctuary in Juba where they lived as destitute people. Many of their children didn’t go to school. Even at the moment, there is no proper schooling for their children. Displacement is going to disrupt the little staggering education available in some of our villages. If such human-created and imposed catastrophe can easily be reversed or avoided through enforcement of tough measures restraining and neutralizing the unacceptable extortion activities of the soldiers based at Muluak, why not do it now before things go out of hands.
One possible line of action to safeguard the movement of our civilians to and from Lirya is to move away those forces stationed at Muluak. Cantonments cannot be located along the road close to the residential areas. They have to be placed far away from the civilian settlement areas. The revitalized peace agreement supports this line of argument. We would like to see to it that Muluak extortion and harassment be brought to speedy end with immediate effect to allow free movement of people, goods and services.
Where is Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM)? Is it dead or alive? If alive, why is it silent about violations of the peace agreement occurring at Muluak which is not far from Juba? Silence and indifference indicate that CTSAMVM is no longer worthy and will soon be forgotten and damped into the archives of history. CTSAMVM is under obligation to move to Muluak and recommend the relocation of the soldiers to another place far away from the road. Otherwise our people will soon declare it toothless.
The implications of CTSAMVM ineffectiveness as well as people’s taste away from it will have a far reaching negative impact on the peace agreement. Unless the CTSAMVM and JMEC exert honest and concerted efforts in addressing the ongoing extortion activities at Muluak, they will share the biggest portion of the blame for dragging the country back to square one of the conflict. Time for sleeping and enjoying dollars in hotels must stop now in order to rescue the remaining downtrodden people from the highest death rate in the world. CTSAMVM and JMEC wake up and act immediately or it will be too late! God intervene to remedy the plight of your weak defenseless people subjected extortion on way to their villages! Amen.