Escalating Ethnic Clashes and Alleged Government Involvement Rock South Sudan’s Pochalla County
An alarming escalation of ethnic clashes in Pochalla County has raised concerns about alleged government involvement in the strife. Local authorities report that armed youth from neighbouring Pibor County have been mobilized, further fueling a volatile situation that threatens to destabilize the region.
Since September 18th, Pochalla County, located in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA), has been plagued by intermittent confrontations between local Anyuak youth and members of the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF). The tensions ignited following the tragic killing of the former SSPDF commander in the area, Col. Okony Okwom Othow, who was shot dead at his residence in Pochalla town by his own SSPDF colleagues.
Acting Commissioner Owety Olung expressed deep concern, revealing that Murle youths were armed and mobilized in the Murouo area, subsequently advancing toward Pochalla with ominous intentions. Olung emphasized that Pochalla’s youth have taken up arms to repel the advancing armed group, refraining from attacking the military barracks while lamenting the military’s apparent involvement in regional politics.
Charles Wello Onyony, a prominent lawmaker representing Pochalla County in the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA), asserted that the ongoing violence is a calculated effort to suppress the Anyuak community due to their opposition to the GPAA. He decried the excessive use of military force, even involving gunships in attacks on civilians, and expressed frustration at the lack of support from military leadership.
In response to these allegations, GPAA’s Information Minister, Abraham Kelang, vehemently denied claims of youth mobilization against Pochalla and instead portrayed the clashes as a confrontation between government troops and a rebellious group.
SSPDF spokesperson Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang, while acknowledging the ongoing conflict, refuted the allegations of civilian mobilization, stating that there was no need for such measures and that military aircraft were employed solely for the rescue of besieged soldiers.
The situation in Pochalla County is a complex web of ethnic tensions, political rivalries, and violence that threatens the stability of the region. International observers and diplomatic efforts are urgently needed to facilitate a peaceful resolution and prevent further bloodshed in this troubled part of South Sudan.