This article was last updated on May 26, 2022
According to local residents in the county capital, Malek-alel, fighting originally broke out on Thursday 26th June, when the Executive Administrator, Dhel Malong, carried out a raid to confiscate shisha smoking facilities. According to a local source, Administrator Malong was resisted by the smokers, who beat him seriously while accompanying police fired warning shots in the air.
On the following morning, the source added, Malong took the law into his own hands, mobilizing his family members to retaliate. This attack failed and the Administrator was again beaten up by a group of residents who had also called for family reinforcements. Administrator Malong was eventually forced to seek police shelter from the attackers. In the course of this second clash, County Commissioner Jiel Mangok confirmed that the fatalities occurred as the police intervened, mistakenly shooting dead 2 people as they attempted to separate the mob, which was armed with sticks and stones.
On Friday, the County Commissioner confirmed the local accounts of the origin of the incident thus: “yesterday, we had the county administrator, who went to market for mobilizing shisha smokers to stop it but some people fought him.” Commissioner Mangok blamed the administrator for taking the law into his own hands, becoming involved in physical fights with ordinary citizens, and not seeking proper legal support, during the first incident on Thursday and second on Friday morning.
“He is supposed to wait for the police to carry out the investigation but instead this morning he went with his family and attacked those who fought him yesterday… This caused the death of two people because we sent the police to calm the situation but they shot two people down.” He said. As of Friday evening, 7 people had sustained serious injuries. Out of the injured, 5 are from the administrator’s family, while the two others are local residents who participated in the fight.
The Commissioner also confirmed that there had been loss and destruction of property during the same incident.”Lots of losses were incurred during this incident, from the administrator’s side and as well from the county. Two shops full of consumable goods belonging to the administrator were burned down to ashes as well as his family restaurant and six houses of his family members burnt too. Others are stores, some belonging to him and some being rented by other people” He explained.
To add further complexity to an already tangled tale, Commissioner Mangok revealed that he personally had lost property during the confrontation. Of the stores burned, the Commissioner claimed to have been renting one, which according to him, burned with the loss with 26 sacks of sorghum and12 sacks of groundnuts. Of the other destroyed business premises, one was being rented by the County Administrator while the remaining one was rented by a local businesswoman.
Mangok says he is not sure of number of houses burned in total, as some related attacks had been reported in villages away from the county capital, where relatives of those involved were residing. “Up to now, I don’t know the total number of houses burned because many of them were burnt in various villages. Some were burnt in Maker-akiel, some in Luka-aguot and others in Malekdit.” He revealed.
The Commissioner said he was working closely with heads of the organized forces within the county, to determine the total losses incurred as the result of the sectional fighting. He further emphasized the availability of forces deployed to his county by the state authority to help prevent any further escalation of the episode. However, he said that he still feared retaliatory action, as relatives of the deceased are still gathering in groups in the markets and along local highways.
In interviews carried out after the incident, it was evident that the community was very angry about these events, with a number of residents further expressing their dissatisfaction with county leadership for not listening to complaints made during the 10 years Administrator Malong has been in post.
“The law we have here in this county is neither everywhere in this state nor in very part of the country. Everything is banned here by these very leaders”, said Executive Chief Wol Wol Wol, who also angrily questioned why the police should have used deadly force, shooting the fighting civilians in the head and abdomen.
“What I know is, when there is serious misunderstanding among civilians, what police does is shooting in the air or on the foot of the troublesome person not on the head and abdomen. I would like to know from the leaders if South Sudan laws are applicable towards civilians?” He asked.
Local resident, Wek Deng Bak, disclosed, although that relatives of the deceased have said they are going to first the leave the incident to the government and law for action, calls had been made for Administrator Malong and his relatives to face the death penalty. “These two people are killed innocently and we are going to leave it in the hands of the government to take action on the culprits, if the law is there, we’re going to leave this on their hands so that Dhel Malong pays for the death of these people. We want him taken to where we can’t see him at all with his sons as a consequence of the death penalty”.
Another resident, Bakhita Ator Geng, revealed that, in addition to the current accusations against the Executive Administrator, he has also previously been accused of land grabbing, though no apparent action has been taken against him by the state administration.
Administrator Malong and his entire family are currently in police custody, apparently for their own safety, in light of serious threats made against them by local residents. The use of shisha was banned in the state capital last year, but is still being illegally used by a few individuals, who are being hunted down by police.