File Photo: Hon. Emmanuel Adil Anthony, Governor of Central Equatoria State

By Lotole Lo Luri

Yesterday’s papers and cyber news brought us the details of the meeting that took place at J1 on Wednesday the 9th of September 2020 between President Kiir and the Governor of Central Equatoria State, Hon. Emmanuel Adil Anthony. The Governor was briefing the President about the security situation in his state. While he claimed that security had improved relatively in most parts of Central Equatoria, he called upon the National Salvation Front (NAS) forces “to cease attacks on civilian vehicles on the highway.” He also seized the opportunity to endear himself to the President by appealing to General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the leader of NAS to respect the ceasefire agreement.

NAS has vehemently denied attacking civilians or non-military vehicles on the roads. The local population, including those from the Governor’s village, have consistently pointed fingers at the South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF), the Mathiang Anyoor, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) as the culprits causing insecurity in the area. People would recall the recent unprecedented population displacements as a result of the joint offensive by the SSPDF, the Mathiang Anyoor militia, and the SPLA-IO in Kajo-keji, Yei, Lainya, and Lo’bonok, to mention just a few. Testimonies from the locals placed the blame squarely on the government. Many would also recall a senior citizen sitting in front of his home that was burned down to ashes, saying that he is just a citizen and not a rebel and he does not understand what the government’s forces did to him.

Unfortunately for Governor Anthony, his attempt to gain favour with President Kiir, coincided with the conviction of 26 SSPDF soldiers for crimes ranging from killing civilians, rape, and looting in Yei, his home town. Well, it appears the Governor is more concerned about securing his job than to pay attention to the welfare of his local folks. He even ganged up with some unscrupulous politicians in Central Equatoria State to foment divisions among the communities in a bid to please their masters [Kiir and the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE)].

Governor Anthony’s hatred, or let’s say ‘animosity for personal gains’ against NAS is not something new. In March 2018, he asked NAS fighters to lay down their arms and join talks with the government in a grass-roots approach. But before that, and in December 2016, Adama Dieng, the UN Special Advisor on Prevention of Genocide warned of looming genocide in Yei and called for an urgent investigation to avert the grave human rights situation in the area. Now, how realistic that a grass-roots approach could be undertaken if the government is being accused of genocide? And how could NAS lay down arms while innocent civilians are being brutalised and massacred?

The Governor’s paid-for propaganda campaign against NAS continued unabated. In August 2019, he accused NAS fighters of killing 2 Ugandan nationals. It was a malicious allegation meant to paint NAS as a warmonger whose forces are out of control. It was also an attempt to solicit support from Uganda in the form of stringent border control and a crackdown on perceived NAS supporters in the refugee camps.

Governor Anthony is making a big fool out of himself. Everyone knows that the insecurity in the Yei River Area and the rest of Central Equatoria State predates the birth of NAS. He and his predecessor, Governor Lokonga are partly responsible for the mayhem in their backyards as they were the ones who requested the deployment of the notorious Mathiang Anyoor militia in the then Yei River State.

The likes of Governor Emmanuel Adil Anthony have learned over the years that it pays to be an outspoken critic of NAS and a staunch supporter of President Kiir. The more they show hostility against NAS; the more significant the return. It’s a dire undertaking given the widespread support that NAS enjoys in Central Equatoria State. History has shown it time and again that no one ever betrayed his or her community and afterwards had a happy personal or political future. President Kiir, the JCE, and whoever in their folds will go when the time comes. The people of Central Equatoria and South Sudan at large will rise at the end of the day.

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