September 30, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudan parliament has formed a five-member committee to investigate the oil explosion incident in which nearly 200 people died in Western Equatoria state two weeks ago.
- South Sudanese MPs stand during a parliamentary session in Juba on August 31, 2011 (AFP)
The National Legislative Assembly, after a two hour debate, approved the motion moved by Maridi county MP Justin Joseph Marona to constitute a fact finding committee.
Marona had presented details on how the explosion started in his 10 minutes speech.
“At about one pm (local), the fuel tanker overturned and attracted more than 1,000 people who were collecting the leaking fuel,” said Marona, quoting survivors of the accident.
“At around 3:50pm, a group of soldiers on land cruiser hardtops arrived to the scene, carrying two empty barrels with intention of trying to also to collect petrol from the tank. Then one of them tried to disperse the crowd by firing the bullet and which spared fire and caused explosion,” he said, adding “but this is yet to be investigated.”
The oil tanker, traveling from Juba to Yambio on September 16 veered off the road near Maridi and overturned. At least 206 reportedly died. Maridi MP Marona said seven members of one family are dead in one of the worse accident in South Sudan’s history.
“Sixty people have been buried in mass grave after their bodies were burnt beyond recognition and most of the dead are young people,” he said.
South Sudan often suffer from acute fuel shortage and the commodity, which is basic source of electricity and motors, is needed by almost every household.
The parliamentary committee will establish the preliminary report that soldiers fired into the crowd and triggered fire as well as the oil suppliers. Their report will be delivered to parliament after one month. The MPs went on recess on October 1st and would return on November 1st – just in time to report their findings.
The MPs also resolved to contribute 200 South Sudanese pound each to support the injured and families of the deceased. At least 180 people are nursing wounds from the oil fire – some in critical conditions.
“Over sixty eight burnt completely and buried in mass grave. Maximum losses in one of the clan reached seventeen people and there is one family lost seven of its members. One foreigner from Uganda has disappeared and one is now in Juba teaching hospital,” said MP Marona, recounting the detail of the oil fire to MPs.
Onyito Adigo Nyikec of the opposition SPLM-DC said government has underperformed.
“The government is behaving as if nothing happened. I think it is very unfortunate. How do we consider ourselves as leaders of the country and we are not caring for the people who are dying,” said the Adigo, an outspoken lawmaker from Upper Nile state.
But ruling SPLM MPs dismissed Adigo’s submission and accused him tending to score political point in a natural accident.
Gatwech Lam, also Upper Nile state and chair of the energy committee in parliament, said legislation are being drafted to avoid future similar accidents. He did not say when those laws will be ready for deliberation or areas to be addressed.
The MPs decried the tragedy and vowed that anyone involved will be brought to books.