Hatire / Imotong Community Demands Action On Landmines

The Hatire/Imotong community of Ikotos County has appealed to the Eastern Equatoria State government to address the persistent re-planting of anti-personal landmines along the Torit-Imotong road by unknown people.

The community that is bordered in the north- west by Torit County is represented in the State Legislative Assembly by Tobiolo Alberio Oromo who presented their plea to the Assembly last Tuesday.

‘In 2008, after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), all the roads in the state were declared as de-mined and pronounced free of land mines and Imotong-Torit road was inclusive’, read a statement by the community.

They said the government, NGOs and private vehicles started using the road for commercial activities without any problem, but later the residents of Imotong began experiencing dangers on the roads.

The State Assembly member Oromo quoted the head chief of Imotong Payam Valente Lapai Odongi’s statements that:

“On July 5, 2009, the first incident occurred when two landmines were planted by unknown people and after discovery, they were removed by MAG de-miners. On August 12, 2009 three more landmines were planted and later removed by SPLA proper combat engineers and on March16, 2010, one tank and two anti-personal mines were again planted at a place called Hiyeli. The UN military officers patrol unit with one SPLA Major who were on their way to Imotong Payam received a report about the planting of the mines from SPLA proper commander at the mission barracks. The landmines were then removed by the UNMIS team in Torit. Then as recent as June 4, 2010, three more mines were discovered and removed by UNIMS”.

The leaders of Imotong community have attributed the planting of landmines on their road to cattle raids between the Imotong Payam of Ikotos County with Hiyala Payam of Torit County between 2006 and 2008 which resulted into several killings.

The community further claimed the incidents are politically motivated over the border encroachment issue and the refusal of Imotong community to be part of Torit County.

“We are a peace – loving community and not thieves, raiders or murderers, but farmers in our own rich land. We are the contributors of success of liberation of the people of South Sudan by offering our animals and food and sons and daughters who are still serving at the frontline in borders between the south and the north. But we have not been considered and recognised”, added the statement.

Committee

The Assembly members recommended an immediate formation of a parliamentary committee to serve as a fact-finding committee charged with going to the ground to assess the situation.

A committee consisting of five members headed by Oromo was immediately formed and will meet the two commissioners of Ikotos and Torit counties.

The committee will move together with UNMIS to identify and clear all landmines on the road.

It was further agreed that the deployment of security forces along the Torit-Imotong road be effected immediately.

The committee will present its finding before the house on Wednesday, July 8, 2010 followed by a peace conference.

During its tour, the committee will also meet the youth, women and elders of the conflicting communities.

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