Lobong road ambush: Budi MP Longole Kuam spills the beans
Longole Kuam, a Member of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly knows what the ramifications of violence looks like in a constituency. The MP lost more than 15 civilians comprising women and children, who were murdered in cold blood on March 28 in Loriyok Payam, Budi County, Eastern Equatoria State, in the wake of a deadly communal violence.
In an interview with the City Review, he explains the intrigues of the attack and how leaders should respond to community conflicts, which is equally threatening national stability.
City Review (CR): What exactly happened in your area?
Longole Kwam (LK): Actually, what happened in Loriyok was a shock to all of us as a nation, community and as a family. On Sunday 28 March 2021 people were attacked at night and they killed children and women and three men.
CR: Where were these women?
LK: They got those women sleeping at night, then they killed them and burnt the houses. After burning they ran away.
CR: Who first gave the report about the incident?
LK: It was in the morning when the Commissioner learnt this report from Chukudum and he went to the place and found these people [corpse], nobody buried them. The Commissioner reported this to the governor. Then the following day the governor arrived. I believe up to this time (Saturday April 3), these people are not buried.
CR: Then what happened when Governor Lobong was in the area?
LK: When the governor was meeting the mourners, I think he was to console them. I understand, the governor said something which made the mourners react. There was commotion among the mourners; up to the extent that the security people advised the governor to adjourn the talks (address) and they decided to go to the barrack.
CR. You mean the locals are still in the bush hiding?
LK: The commissioner was trying to call on chiefs to tell the people to come back. Commissioner sent the car with the priest to go and collect the chiefs. The chiefs refused to come. [He then] sent another committee so that they come and meet with Commissioner and the Division Commander so that they can defuse the tension and bring peace, so that these people can come back to town.
CR: As we talk now, how is the situation on the ground?
LK: The situation on the ground is a bit calm. The Commissioner is still there (in camp 15 area) with the division commander and they are trying to calm the situation and they are also trying find out the way to reach the chiefs so that if the chiefs come, they will be the ones to tell people to return home.
CR: What was the cause of the attack on innocent civilians?
LK: According to what the people say,[it was a revenge] for an attack which happened at IO cantonment site in Lowareng. Some people went there and killed five people before that; then we said this cannot make sense because the cantonment is under the government. So, it would have been the government of national unity and the UNMISS to form a committee to investigate the first incident, not youths to revenge on behalf of IO and the government. I was expecting the government to form a committee to investigate the cause of the problem.
CR: You think the state government failed to address the problem at the initial stage?
LK: Yes, we even wonder why the state government failed to investigate the incidents at the time it happened. Also what escalate issues was, when the state government did not act to investigate the issue. Up to this time, the committee to investigate that issue is not yet formed.
CR: What is your message to the community affected, leaders and the nation at large?
LK: The governor should form a team to go and investigate the incidents [like this]. When the incident is investigated, the culprits can be identified. I also advise the youths in their villages to forgive all those who caused the chaos and they should stop revenge. I also ask the youths to join the government and participate in development.
I ask the government also to implement the peace agreement and give protection to the people and put justice into practice.
We need Buya community to dialogue with Toposa and Didinga people. We have decided to push all the problem to dialogue, there is no need again to continue killing.
By Joseph Loful