The attack in Jombu Boma of Yei River County targeted a convoy of government officials on their way back from the International Youth Day in Uganda’s Koboko District.
The delegation celebrated the Youth Day and passed through Morobo County, before being ambushed, Yei River State Minister of Information, Stephen Lado Onesimo said. He added that five civilians, including government officials, were injured.
“When we look at the vehicles that are targeted, these are the vehicles of political advisor, the vehicle of the minister of education and the vehicle of the Commissioner of Morobo County,” he said on Sunday.
We lost two civilians.
Lado said the political advisor and the commissioner sustained minor injuries after their vehicles were holed with bullets. He added that a grenade explosion also hit one car. Injured people are accessing medical services, Lado said, adding that the rest of the officials are safe.
“These vehicles have been damaged, wrecked with gunshots, very heavy gunfire including throwing of grenade. The report of the hospital shows that the dignitaries sustained minor injuries, but no major injury,” he said. “We lost two civilians.”
The delegation included Yei River State Political Advisor, Jackson Abugo Gama, Mary Apayi Ayiga, Minister of Education, Gender Child and Social Welfare, Morobo County Commissioner, Toti Jacob, members of parliament, women, youth and business leaders.
Mugwo resident Harriet, who has fled, said they heard the shooting at around 01:00 PM. “We have no idea who attacked who. We don’t stay in the centre because we fear the fighting,” she said.
Lado said the youth leader of the SPLM Youth League in Yei was killed, as was a member of staff in the Ministry of Education, Gender, Child and Social Welfare.
Also late Saturday night, Yei town witnessed some hours of random shooting and its cause remains unclear, officials said.
The SPLA General Headquarters in Juba issued a statement read to the media on Sunday morning, ordering soldiers not to shoot in towns without directives from their respective commanders.
“Those who violated these orders and made unnecessary shooting of guns shall be disarmed and arrested immediately, and if resist arrest, they will be shot at,” said the statement which took effect immediately on Sunday.
Yei River State has been facing rising cases of insecurity in towns and along highways where looting has become rampant.
This highway insecurity has blocked food from being taken to Yei town, triggering continuous fleeing of residents to neighbouring countries for fear of an outbreak of fighting and mounting hunger.
Several clashes have been witnessed along Yei-Morobo and Yei-Lasu roads in the past months. On August 11, there were fierce clashes between government forces and armed group in Kimba of Mugwo Payam where the recent incident also happened.
Meanwhile, “the government has full mandate to protect civilians and their properties in the state”, said State Governor David Lokonga in a statement on Sunday, calling on civilians to remain calm.
The general public in Yei River State should remain calm.
The state government also gives condolences to the families of the deceased, he said. Lokonga said those who have taken up arms against the government should pursue amicable solutions.
“The general public in Yei River State should remain calm and should not embrace any fear on what happened. The civilians should be assured that the government is here to protect civilians and their properties,” he said.
Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe of Yei Catholic Diocese, said “freedom of movement should be guaranteed to our citizens” and that blocking the road would worsen the already hard economic situation threatening South Sudanese.
“If you block roads, we don’t allow the movement of people and we are making the economic situation worse,” he said in his Sunday remarks at Christ the King Cathedral.