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Upper Nile deputy governor denies wrongdoing in Melut-Maban conflict, urges dialogue

Author: Alhadi Hawari | Published: Monday, March 25, 2024

Upper Nile Deputy Governor Deng Joh Agok. (-)

Upper Nile Deputy governor has denied accusations by Maban intellectuals that he contributed to the 2017 Kilo-Ashara clashes between Maban and Melut counties, as he called for dialogue with the petitioners.

In a letter dated March 19, 2024, intellectuals and lawmakers representing Maban at the national parliament accused Deng Joh Agok of fueling conflict between communities when he was a commissioner.

They alleged that during Agok’s tenure as the County Commissioner of Melut, many people lost their lives due to conflicts between the two communities.

In response, Deputy Governor Agok denied involvement in the deadly 2017 Kilo Ashara dispute which he described as unfortunate.

Mr Agok said he and his former Maban counterpart were innocent of any wrongdoing, adding that they only intervened to avert bloodshed.

“This statement released by the Maban intellectuals is a normal fear staged to accuse my personality. But I want to deny that I was not part of this incident,” Agok told Eye Radio.

“I was only a shepherd for the safety and security of the civilians in the area. Yes, it’s when I was the commissioner of Melut, and there have been unfortunate incidents in the area between us and our people in Maban.”

“But me and the commissioner of Maban are innocent, we have contributed to the incident does not continue. In my own opinion, my brothers and politicians in the parliament rushed, and we were supposed to set as comrades of SPLM.”

Deputy Governor Angok, who was appointed on March 18, already took oath on Thursday, as President Kiir directed him and Jonglei deputy governor Atong Kuol Manyang to unite communities in their states.

In their letter, the intellectuals and lawmakers questioned Agok’s ability to effectively manage inter-communal relations to foster peace and harmony among the diverse communities of the State.

The statement stated that Upper Nile is in a fragile state facing numerous socio-political challenges, and as such, Agok’s “lack of experience in navigating such dynamics” cast doubts he will effectively address the issues.

The group urged the appointing authority to reconsider Deng Joh Agok’s assignment and get another candidate with the requisite skills and commitment to foster peace, unity and development in the State.

In 2017, the two communities clashed over the Kilo-Achera territory, leading to loss of lives, and prompting the government to form a committee to investigate the incident.

After the violence, a committee led by Vice-President James Wani Igga visited the area in November 2022 and decided to make the disputed area a demilitarized zone.

Igga’s committee recommended that Maban move back to the Jamam area, while the Melut community retracts to Kilo 20, and neighboring Longeichuk pulls back to the Bulgok area.

Deputy Governor Deng Joh said he understands the fears of Maban intellectuals and called for dialogue to address the concerns in the interest of both communities.

“I want to assure my people in Maban that we will work together for security. Your fears are taken as appreciation, and we have to sit as politicians, to dialogue for the interest of the civilians.”

Deputy Governor Agok said Kilo-Ashara is currently controlled by the state government pending a resolution from the Presidency.

He urged the three communities of Melut, Maban, and Longechuk to see the disputed territory as a site of peaceful coexistence and unity among themselves.

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