27th February 2021
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Army may use force to disarm ‘gelweng’

Author: Obaj Okuj | Published: Thursday, February 18, 2021

SSPDF soldiers pose for a photograph | File photo

Disarmament forces may be compelled to disarm civilians amidst increased communal fighting in the country, the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces has said.

The statement comes as the cycle of violence and revenge attacks have increased among communities in the country, particularly in Warrap, Lakes, Unity, Jonglei and Central Equatoria states.

Early this week, 17 people were reportedly killed in Tonj North County in Warrap state.

And on Sunday, more than 10 were killed in Lakes state.

In August last year, clashes occurred between disarmament forces and armed youth in Tonj left about 127 people dead.

Despite several disarmament exercises, local youth locally referred to as ‘gelweng’ (defenders of cattle) are still in possession of small firearms.

Speaking to Eye Radio, the deputy army spokesperson says SSPDF plans to resume disarmament in those areas.

However, Brigadier General Santo Domic said they will apply force should the armed civilians refuse to hand over their voluntarily.

“Are we going to watch civilian killing themselves or are we going to remove guns using force?” Brig.-Gen. Domic asked.

But experts have warned against poorly studied measures that force the people to surrender their arms, as some communities may find themselves unable to protect themselves after handing over their weapons.

Besides, some observers have said that collected guns usually find their way back to the hands of the civilians, a situation they blame on some senior military officials.

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