Panic grips Pieri town after deployment of SPLA-IO Kitgwang forces
Panic and fear have gripped Pieri town, the headquarters of Pieri Payam in Uror County, Jonglei State after SPLA-IO forces loyal to Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual’s Kitgwang faction deployed in the town last week, residents, local officials, and police said.
Lt. Col. Peter Gatbel Machar, the county police inspector, said there has been an uneasy calm since last Thursday with residents living in fear as heavily armed Kitgwang forces moved into the town.
“Those forces were stationed at Kuellnyanuer, an area just outside Pieri town,” he explained. “What happened was that there was fighting involving two rival clans and so some local administrators and police officers had to be dispatched to restore calm. The Kitwang forces also deployed to all parts of the town.”
Lt. Col Gatbel said the deployment has created fear and panic but called for calm among the residents.
“The cause of fear is that civilians are seeing heavily armed soldiers in the town but what we are saying is that they should remain calm as we continue engaging the Kitgwang leadership,” he said.
Meanwhile, Machot Gatluak Kenyjak, the Uror County commissioner, said discussions are ongoing with the Kitwang leadership so that their forces vacate the town.
“We have been talking to the Kitgwang leadership in Pieri so that they let their forces leave the town. They have deployed near administrative offices and this is causing fear among residents,” Commissioner Gatluak said. “On Monday, we will hold another talk and this will hopefully yield good results. So, my message is that the people should remain calm.”
For his part, Gen. Tutnyang Gatkal, the commander of the Kitgwang forces in Pieri, said they relocated to the town to restore calm.
“There have been feuds among civilians and the police in Pieri has failed to deescalate the tensions,” he charged. “So, we moved in to restore peace and security.”
A resident of the town, James Biel, who spoke to Radio Tamazuj, said they have been panicking over fears that clashes could erupt in Pieri.
“There is fear because those forces have been based in Kuelnyanuer since January when they broke away from Dr. Riek Machar,” he said. “Since last week, they invaded Pieri with a tank and heavy machine guns. So, we do not know what will happen.”