Manhiem’s mission

Just as with Aleu, who had replaced the Twic governor Bona Panek, Akol Koor hoped Manhiem would be a more pliable and loyal governor than his predecessor. Just as with Aleu, Manhiem began his governorship with a declaration that he would bring security to Warrap. And just as with Aleu, things did not quite work out the way that Manhiem intended. He became governor during a series of clashes between the Luanyjang and the Jalwau section of the Greater Ananatak, leading Manhiem to interrupt his own attendance at an event marking the first anniversary of the death of Ajingdit (a Dinka spiritual leader) in Twic county and travel to Tonj East county. There, he deployed the army, suspended a Luanyjang community conference, ordered the entire Luanyjang community to disarm, and demanded that the major Luanyjang politicians leave Tonj East—including Matthew Mathiang Magordit, the former governor of Tonj state and an ally of Akol Koor. The Luanyjang felt these measures constituted the selective, partisan punishment of their community. Manhiem’s interventions failed; clashes in Tonj East continued through much of 2023.

Despite this early failure, Manhiem adopted the same playbook as his predecessor, Aleu, in an attempt to instil law and order in Warrap. On 23 September 2023, for instance, the SSPDF extrajudicially killed a man from the Akook section of the Greater Ananatak for a crime he had allegedly committed on 18 September—bringing the number of extrajudicial killings committed by Manhiem’s administration to 20 for the year.[1] The problem with such extrajudicial killings is that they are not an effective means of reducing violence: rather than being seen as the illegal hand of a neutral law, they are perceived as a partisan intervention on behalf of groups close to the state administration.

The recent killing of the noted bandit—or celebrated youth leader—Bol Akol is exemplary of the limitations of Manhiem’s approach. While much of Greater Tonj has been relatively peaceful over the past few months, Kirrik payam (Ajak Leer subsection) remains tense.[2] On 2 July, Ajak Leer gelweng led by Bol Akol raided Manloor payam (Nyang Akoc subsection), taking 40 head of cattle and killing five people. The Ajak Leer were subsequently forced to pay compensation for the deaths of the five people, but complained that this compensation was unfair, for they had received no compensation for their own losses from raids—a commentary on the partisan politics of state government in Warrap.[3]

On 22 August, Ajak Leer gelweng under Bol Akol’s command returned to Manloor to retrieve the cattle that they had to pay in compensation for the 2 July raid. The SSPDF then intervened and attempted to arrest those they thought responsible for raiding Manloor, along with an Ajak Leer subchief. In the ensuing clash, three soldiers were wounded and Bol Akol and two soldiers were killed. The Ajak Leer subchief also died of suffocation after the SSPDF detained him inside a container.

For many Ajak Leer, Bol Akol had no choice other than to raid and recover the cows taken from him; he had previously explored legal avenues to recover cattle he had lost in raids by other groups, but was blocked by officials opposed to his community. In the absence of a neutral state government able to mediate between communities, actors like Bol Akol feel they have no choice but to take the law into their own hands. This is a dilemma that Aleu also encountered, and to which Manhiem has as of yet found no answer.

[1] Author telephone interviews with international observer with knowledge of the proceedings, September 2023.

[2] The payam is South Sudan’s third administrative level, under state and county; payams are divided up into bomas.

[3] Multiple author telephone interviews with Warrap politicians, Warrap political analysts, UN sources, and international observers, September 2023. The following four paragraphs are based on the same interviews.