Opinion

Truth Empowers – Agonizing journey culminated into probability solution to Lomega conflict (Part 1)

By Christopher Sebit

sebitomini@gmail.com

Tell the truth; the truth will liberate you. On Wednesday 30th May 2018, the arbitration committee of Jubek State Government together with the conflict parties travelled to Lomega for a long-awaited conflict resolution journey. Hon. Paterno Legge Omini, Governor’s Advisor on Security Affairs chaired the committee. The other members of the committee were Hon. Isaac Ribek Benjamin, Minister of Local Government, Law Enforcement Agency and Parliamentary Affairs was the secretary of the committee. Other members of the committee were Hon. Anna Kaku Samson, Governor’s Advisor on Political Affairs and SPLM State Secretary, Hon. Gerald Francis Nyakue, Jubek State Legislative Assembly Member and Hon. Peter Yata, Governor’s Advisor on Economic Affairs. The following members of the Council of Traditional Authority Leaders (COTAL) were coopted as observers: Chief Simon Soro, Chief Anjelo Lado and Chief Peter Tombek Lado. Also constituting part of the mission as observers were the Commissioner of Lirya County, Hon. Hitler Abili Roberto; the Commission of Lokiliri County, Hon. George Lado Wani; Martin Simon Wani, Executive Director of Lokiliri County, Chief Peter Lokiyek and Chief Augustino Loyok from Lirya and Chief Peter Cirillo from Lokiliri.

The journey to Lomega started from the State Government Secretariat at around 11:00 am. The cars transporting the parties: Arinyakono family and Kworiji families: Kurcha and Mone were put at the tail of the convoy, where those transporting the committee’s members and the security personnel were placed ahead in a long convey line. At Nesitu, the convoy was delayed for about 20 minutes to enable the secretary of the committee, who was coming from Uganda, to join the convoy. As the secretary’s time of arrival could not be accurately ascertained, the convoy was authorized to continue moving. One car was left behind in Nesitu to pick the secretary.

On approaching Ngangala Payam, the convoy stopped at Merchuk stream lying a short distance from Ngangala town. It was at this point that the Commissioner of Lokiliri County unfolded his flag. Overwhelmed by surprise, the author inquired from one of the Lokoya travelling with him if it was the right place for unfolding Lokiliri County flag. He told the author that the right place was left far behind. “This is not the first time such deliberate violation is taking place. It is a repeated action. The state authorities must take immediate action to address this border conflict before it reaches confrontation stage”, he stressed. The Commissioner of Lirya County joined the convoy inside Ngangala.

When the convoy reached Lofulak stream, the Commissioner of Lokiliri flew his flag. According to one community leader from Ngulere, the border between Lokiliri and Ngulere is one mile from Lofulak stream, somewhere around the teak plantation, forestry reserve. This is another point of border conflict that deserves attention from the concern authorities in order to prevent any emerging tension between Lokiliri and Ngulere. The Langabu say that their borderline with the Lulubo is found at these points: near Lokiliri Primary School, west; Lojer stream, south; Gumo with Odemo, south east; Hobuwari with Lowoi, east; and Lokaragutu with Lirya, north.

Before talks could start, the author had an opportunity to go through the conflict area known as “Bete” by the Arinyakono family and “Pede” by Kworiji Kurcha with the intention to confirm the information contained in his previous writings about the conflict.  Lomega is a plateau lying north of Bete. No discrepancy existed between the observed realities on the ground and the ideas contained in the previous writings prior to the mission. Situated at the foot of Bete Mountain are the pillars of Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS). Unfinished house and two guest houses belonging to Archbishop Paul Benjamin Yugusuk and the shop of his brother, Enok Benjamin Wani Yugusuk are located at a short distance walk from the church. The shop bears the following writings: Umba Shop (Kamamala) Mini Shop Lomega Village Tel. +211922133555. There were cases of houses belonging to Langabu natives demolished to pave way for personal development projects of the Archbishop Paul. Bricks of the late Dr. Pacifico Lolik Lado were reported to have been used without permission from his family.

Lomega clinic and the foundation of Chief Lolik court lie to the east of Umba Shop. The sign post of the clinic carries these statements: Renovation of Lomega PHCC in Partnership with UNHCR, ACROSS, GOSS and Government of Germany, 2010 Community Based Reintegration Project Completed in December 2010. “Many mango trees, teaks and Mahagoni trees had been cleared out in the pretext of implementing development projects. “All the mango trees along the road going from the clinic to Lomega were cut down”, one of the Langabu natives told the author. “The statue of Captain Cooke was fixed in Lomega by Archbishop Paul. I helped him fix the statue”, said Charles Lado who is his nephew. The following were printed on the sign post: IN HONOUR OF CAPTAIN ROBERT CHAVELLIER COOKE COMMISSIONER OF MANGALLA, REJAF AND JUBA DISTRICTS 1918—1946. Unfinished structures were erected near the statue.

The talks began at 4:12 pm. The chairperson read the resolutions of the previous meeting of the committee with the parties. They are summarized as followed: (1) The conflict should be limited to the two families, not to be magnified in a manner involving all the Lulubo and the Lokoya; (2) The conflict should be resolved in Lomega; (3) The conflict should be resolved peacefully. (4) 1, 2 and 3 are the basis for resolving the conflict. He asked Kworiji Kurcha family and Arinyakono family to select six persons (landlords) each for talks. Before talks began, one of the Lulubo by name Sebit stood up and said, “Lofode is not the land of Kurcha or Arinyakono, it is the Lulubo land. We need clarifications from the chairperson”. Lofode is another name for the contested area, Bete. The talks proceeded as follows.

[1] Odele Lolik (Arinyakono family): I am the grandson of Arinyakono. Bete is Arinyakono land. It is our in-laws who are claiming our land. Lojole married our sister Poni. We gave him a piece of land in Bete to build his house. Arinyakono was buried in Langabu centre for ritual purpose. Our death ritual obliges us to burry our dead brothers in the compound or premises of their first wives.

[2] Rev. Charles Lado (Arinyakono family): I am a priest of Lomega Diocese. Bete is the land of my great grandfathers. The people grabbing Bete are my uncles. God is not happy with the way the committee is handling the conflict. There are people among the Lulubo who know very well that Arinyakono was the owner of Bete. I was instructed by the Archbishop Paul to fix the statue of Captain Cooke in Lomega. He told me that the Lokiliri people should not know about the plan to install the statue. Lomega Diocese is supposed to serve both Lokoya and Lulubo, but it is only benefiting the Lulubo. We were the ones who built the church. There is a hidden agenda behind the building of the church. The land of my grandfather is being grabbed through the church.

[3] Arkangelo Lobiro (Arinyakono family): I am talking on behalf of Arinyakono family. The family calls me uncle. The mother of Lolik called me uncle. Arinyakono was here in Bete before the coming of Turko-Egyptian administration. Kurcha was living in the mountains. Arinyakono told Logole who married Poni Narouyak to stay with him in Bete. During the Anglo-Egyptian government (1898) the Lulubo were forced to come down from the mountains when the road was being opened. Kurcha came in Bete at the time of the Condominium rule. Why did the people of long time ago know how to stay in peace? Why now grabbing our land? Bringing their Payam in our land is a provocation. At time of hunting, Langabu performed hunting ritual in Lomega. At the time of opening the clinic, the Langabu performed the ritual. The Archbishop Paul thanked the Langabu Chief Franco Juma for performing the ritual. The same chief was invited by the Archbishop Paul to perform the ritual during installation of MTN communication tower. Why inviting the Langabu Chief to perform rituals if it is not his land? You Eluzai invited us one time in your home to discuss issues to do with the development of Lomega. You requested us to start contributing funds for development projects of Lomega. The original name of Lomega is Lofode. Eluzai, you admitted that the land belonged to Arinyakono.

[4] Joseph Lokudu (Arinyakono family): This is the land of my great grandfather, Arinyakono Kajame. Archbishop Paul came through the ECSS to grab our land. Here is the map of Lokiliri Local Council annexing our land. Eluzai said he would give part of Lomega to ECSS. We respect Lulubo, but our land cannot be taken. It is our great grandfathers’ land.

[5] Chief Franco Juma (Arinyakono family): Since 1949 we have been living in peace with the Lulubo. I was born in Lomega. It is the intermarriage that brought this conflict. Archbishop Paul new it is not his land that is why he invited me for renovation and opening ceremony of the clinic. During the opening ceremony of the clinic, I came with a goat to perform ritual. If he knew that it is their land, why calling me to perform rituals. At the time of installing MTN communication tower, I brought a goat and performed ritual. If this land is to be taken by force, I don’t have power. We must go for swearing.

[6] Peter Lokudu (Arinyakono family): This is the village of Arinyakono Kajame Akirkwak Abikidi. This place is called Bete. My grandfather, Arinyakono Kajame had 5 wives: 3 Langabu and 2 Lulubo. Maria, Midiye and Efirai were Langabu; Keji Nabelo was from Chodoni; and Eleko was from Lokiliri. Maria was the first wife. All the children of Arinyakono were born in Bete. Poni Narouyak, daughter of Arinyakono was married to Lojole. Lojole had children. Those who brought this problem are the young boys. Bete problem was mainly caused by Archbishop Paul and Eluzai. Paul came from Ngerjebi. Lolik married Moyo who is Paul’s aunt. New politics caused Lomega issue. We respect the Lulubo as our brothers. We do not want under ground war when we are brothers. Let us stay as good neighbours. If Eluzai insists to own Bete, the only solution is to come from God through swearing.

[7] Eluzai Mogga (Kworiji Kurcha): I was born in Bete Mountain in 1948. Arinyakono migrated from Nyangwara and settled in Lirya. Oiriya rejected his chieftainship. Arinyakono moved away and stayed with my grandfather Lojole. The Lokoya wanted to kill him. Lojole gave Arinyakono a place to settle in. Arinyakono in turn gave his daughter to Lojole to marry. I studied with Franco Juma in Lirya. This mountain is Pede. Chief Lolik told Loula to care of his children because the Lokoya did not want them.  Tell the committee where the grave Arinyakono lies.

[8] Paul Yugusuk Tombe, Kworiji Kurcha (Member of Jubek State Legislative Assembly): I supported what Eluzai said. My grandfather, Loula welcomed Arinyakono Kajame. Kajame was a farmer. Lirya people rejected joint-chieftainship with the Lulubo. Why the conflict is emerging now? We cannot talk about the church issue. If the committee cannot resolve this problem, we go for swearing.

[9] Elias Gwon: (Kworiji Kurcha): Kurcha is not the owner of the contested land. The right owners are the people of Lokiliri. Arinyakono was a Nyangwara. Lolik established Lofode in 1936. Bete is our area.

[10] Enok Wani Benjamin (Kworiji Mone): I was born in Lofode. My grandfather was buried in Lomega. This is the area of Kworiji. The mango trees were planted by government. Lolik married my grandmother. I am prepared to swear.

[11] Tartisio Jada (Kworiji Kurcha): I want to swear. Lomega is my land.

[12] Asunta Moyo Gorgorio (Kworiji Kurcha): I am the landlord. I want to swear.

[13] Lonjino Michael Cooke (Lulubo from Odemo): Saturlino Ariha declared Lirya Council with two sub-councils, Lomega and Lowoi in 1991. Odemo border with Lokiliri is at Gulumo. Why did the problem not occur during the establishment of Lirya Council? Our border with Kworiji is at Gulumo. The disputed land belongs to Kworiji.

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