Shilluk warriorsJanuary 15, 2009 (MALAKAL) - The Upper Nile State Council of Ministers held an emergency meeting after fighting over land rights broke out between Shilluk and Dinka clans in the capital of Upper Nile state on the sidelines of major peace celebrations.

Representatives of the Shilluk community are now pressing the governor of the state to form investigative committees, arrest the attackers, subject them to trial and protect Shilluk areas with forces they trust.

In accordance with traditional modes of justice, they also demand compensation for the victims.

Attacks on villages outside of Malakal took place Saturday following a violent dispute between Shilluk and Dinka dance troupes on Friday, leading hundreds to flee to the town centre and leaving over 15 dead.

The dispute began over which traditional procession would enter the stadium first, resulting in members fighting with spears, lances and sticks, injuring several people from both sides, some seriously. "The order of the processions appears to be a trivial issue, but it is a serious matter deep-rooted in the claims over the ownership of Malakal town," explained Shilluk leaders, who in fact call themselves Collo rather than Shilluk.

"According to tradition, the procession of the owner of the location where the celebration takes place leads all participating processions. It is common knowledge that some elements of the Baliet Dinkas have been claiming ownership of Malakal town and all the Collo areas east of the White Nile and north of Sobat river," they said.

A statement issued by the Upper Nile State government, dated January 11, deplored the recent bloodshed: "These incidents led to loss of lives, property and injury to our beloved citizens in Malakal, Anakdiar, Abanimo and Bachelik. May God bless the souls of the dead and rest them in eternal peace, quick recovery to the injured and courage to the bereaved."

A bitter dispute over a boundary between the two tribes dates to the 1970s and was revived in 2004, explained Shilluk leaders, including members of the regional, state and national assembly.

"It is also to be noted that over the same period, the Collo were disarmed while their neighbouring tribes were not," said the leadership of the Shilluk.

Calling on the Government of Southern Sudan to form a committee to demarcate a border between the two tribes, the Shilluk MPs delivered petitions to the highest authorities in the South's government.

In response to the incidents, the Upper Nile State Council of Ministers resolved to condemn the attacks, secure the affected areas, provide humanitarian assistance to those in need, arrest suspects and undertake precautions to prevent repetition of such incidents.

"The Government takes this opportunity to assure all citizens of Upper Nile, Southern Sudan and Sudan at large that such cowardly incidents will not deter it from pursuing its policies of peaceful co-existence and social cohesiveness," said a press statement.

The government added that citizens should be "alert and cooperate with the relevant law enforcement agencies to safeguard peace, stability and prosperity in our beloved Upper Nile State."

Yet Shilluk MPs fault the law enforcement for not doing enough to halt that attack before it took place.

They allege that the governor himself received word at 5:00 p.m. that elements of the Dinka were preparing for the attack, which did not take place until 2:00 a.m.

"This information was passed to your Excellency officially by the Commissioner of Panyikang County in the Stadium and you confirmed at 7:00 pm that a military force was sent to Anakdiar and you instructed that this information be passed to His Majesty the Reth of Collo and assure him not to worry as things were under control. Your instructions were communicated to His Majesty accordingly," said the group of Shilluk MPs.

The group of MPs who signed the petition to the governor consists of five National Assembly members (Ezekiel Mojwok Aba, Lam Akol Ajawin, Mario Arenk Awet, Onyoti Adigo Nyikwac and William Othwonh Awer), four Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly members (Angelo Gwang, Charles Yor Odhok, Joseph Bol Chan and Samson Oyay Awin), and 14 Upper Nile State Legislative Assembly members (Acwany Arop Denyong, Gabriel Oyo Aba, Juliano Nyawelo Dak, Kosti Amuj, Mahdi Khalifa Shambali, Martha Angar, Mustafa Gai Lwal, Nyilek Chol Amum, Peter Awol Alejok, Rita John Akurkwej, Samuel Aban Acien, Santino Ajang Aban, Santino Opun Abel and Simon Kiir Adieng).

Source: Sudan Tribuine