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President Salva Kiir chatting with SPLA-Chief of Staff Paul Malong at Juba airport upon his departure to Equatorial Guinea_0

Source: Radio Tamazuj

The national government of South Sudan has dispatched top military officials and a deputy minister to Maridi in Western Equatoria State after a shooting incident between the military and local people.

Soldiers are accused of shooting dead two people and injuring another two on Thursday night, causing panic and some displacement from the town.

Although the state information minister dismissed the incident as a bar fight, local people in the area “interpret the incident as a tribal conflict between the Dinkas and the Equatorians,” reported Maridi FM, the only local radio station in the town.

Peter Bashir Gbandi, the deputy foreign affairs minister, led a team from Juba to Maridi consisting of the army’s chief of staff, Gen. Paul Malong Awan, and his deputy for operations, Lt. Gen. James Ajonga Mawut Ajonga, among other military officers.

According to Maridi FM, the officials aim to conduct meetings with the army troops garrisoned in the town and the residents of the area “with the aim to assess the situation and gather the facts on the incident.”

Gbandi has reportedly sought to assure the Equatorian residents of the area that the government is not trying to stifle debate on federalism, after reports that the cause of the fight on Thursday was a dispute over federalism.

For his part, the Governor of Western Equatoria, Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro, who himself has called for federalism, spoke to the people of Maridi in a phone interview aired by the local radio station.

He advised them not to take the law into their own hands, saying he has received a report on the incident and aims to see the matter settled lawfully.

The governor is also reported to have made remarks on the subject of Dinka cattle-keepers who migrated into the area with their herds after being displaced by violence elsewhere in the country, such as Jonglei.

Local chiefs last month met over the issue of the cattle herders, and asked them to leave the state, setting a deadline of 15 July.

Maridi has been tense but calm since the shootings.

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