After inheriting the leadership of a state in turmoil, Governor Rin Tueny Mabor restored law and order, reshaped Lakes to become one of the most peaceful states in the country, and earned national and regional recognition.
He has since received ‘Best Governor of the Year 2022’ award from the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, for successfully curtailing inter-communal violence and overseeing the enactment of a law prohibiting forced and child marriage.
Also this week, LEADS Africa in collaboration with the South Sudan General Students Union awarded Mabor and Eastern Equatoria State governor Louis Lobong Lojore for their achievement in Institutional Development, Peace, Security and Education.
“Lakes State is now peaceful. People are moving freely, children are back to schools, Local businesses and agricultural productivity has improved,” Governor Mabor said upon receiving the award.
“In our endeavor to develop our human resources and quality education, the state government has banned forced and early marriage and provided free basic education.”
“Despite these achievements, we have some security burdens in some parts of the country, and I therefore appeal to the state governors and chief administrators to work for peace, unity and reconciliation among our people.”
Before his appointment through a Republican Decree in June 2021, Lakes State was a troubled region shadowed by communal conflict and bloodshed.
Media reports on the state were centered on cattle-related conflicts, revenge killings, and land issues.
But Mabor, a former Chief of Military Intelligence of the SSPDF adopted an iron fist policy against perpetrators of inter-communal violence and transitioned the state from conflicts to peace and stability.
On June 8, 2021, the military governor arrived in the Lakes State capital, Rumbek, and was welcomed by a mammoth crowd of people at the Rumbek Freedom Square.
Speaking to thousands in the state capital, he said his mission was to protect the lives and properties of the people.
“My mission in Lakes State is to protect the people and their properties. That is the mission. How to do it is technical and that is why I am here in uniform as a professional soldier,” he told thousands of people.
“We are aware of the crises in Lakes State. There is insecurity, rampant killings, community conflicts, revenge killings, cattle rustling, ambushes and killings along the highway, robbery and extortion of property, and so on. These are the main problems that need to be dealt with properly.”
Weeks after his appointment, General Rin conducted a conference bringing together citizens and policymakers of Lakes on ways to end the violence in the state.
During the conference at Freedom Hall in Juba, the governor received overwhelming calls to enact the death penalty for anyone involved in inter-communal fighting, cattle raids, or road ambushes.
The workshop then concluded with a consideration of the public demand, and it was one of the resolutions read out on the last day.
“Murder must be punishable by death, and any revenge killings that occur after the culprits have been detained must be punishable by death as well,” reads part of the recommendation from the state citizens.
It was also articulated that those who are found in possession of arms without the support of the law must be penalized and disarmed.
Participants agreed on 23 resolutions, including one that would arrest and punish politicians and military officials found guilty of inciting communities to fight and those that supply weapons to civilians.
The governor also vowed to tighten the rule of law in order to stop the vicious cycle of killings in parts of the state.
“My administration will fully effect the punishment of law on such elements destabilizing our state. Bandits and cattle rustling is a criminal offense against the state and must be dealt with properly. We must not succumb to criminals and must not allow our people to despair,” Mabor said.
With impunity becoming the biggest challenge in addressing inter-communal conflicts, Governor Mabor called on culprits to immediately surrender to the police. And in the following weeks and months, the state government implemented tough measures including crackdown on bandits and cattle raiders.
According to several media reports, security forces in the state had also been quick to respond to conflict situations.
In April 2022, security forces were deployed to Rumbek North County to quell communal tension after cattle keepers clashed leading to casualties and displacements.
Outlawing child marriage
In July 2022, Governor Rin made a historic announcement outlawing early and forced marriage in the state.
He declared the ban on the longstanding but harmful cultural practice while touring the Loreto Girls School in Rumbek town.
The governor disclosed that the state parliament has enacted a law prohibiting early child and forced marriage.
This, he says, aims to protect girls’ education and ensure they don’t fall prey to perpetrators of child and forced marriage.
Tueny states that his government will be reaching out to parents to sensitize them about the law.
“I declare the law to protect the girl child education that was passed here in our assembly here. No forced marriage no. I am here as the governor, I am here as a parent, we are as a people, we are here as a church, yes, we as the government,” Mabor said.
“We will have all the opportunities that will be granted by law so you will not be vulnerable to the parents who are thirsty for these animals called cows. You will be free to continue your education and you will be protected by the law, we will tell the parents that you have been given the chance to continue with your education.”
The challenge of disarmament
Despite the relative security in Lakes State, local youth are still heavily armed just like in other parts of the country.
On the sidelines of the 6th Governors’ Forum in November 2022, Lakes State Information Minister William Koji said he expected the forum to adopt a general disarmament resolution to curtail sub-national violence.
Koji told Eye Radio that the relative stability in Lakes State is temporary and has no guarantee because the civilians are still heavily armed.
“We are expecting general disarmament to be done in the country, so it can help us to achieve peace in the states,” he said “There are firearms in the hand of the communities across the country, and people continue getting more firearms, now they are fearing because of law lake state government put in place.”
He appealed to the national government to consider a well-coordinated strategy to remove guns from the hands of civilians across the country.
Minister Kwoji says there cannot be any lasting stability across the country without general disarmament.
“What happens if this firearm continues to be in their hands, so we are expecting general disarmament to be declared for the country.”
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