Friday, April 12, 2013

War-torn Kandep aim for peace

Source: Post Courier, Monday March 18, 2013
Monday 18th March 2013
By Daniel Kumbon in Wabag

Kandep people will now begin to see decent peace upon their beautiful valley because government authorities have taken positive steps to stop an ongoing election related tribal warfare that has claimed over sixty lives.
The fighting between the Akul and Kambrip tribes which started after the declaration of results of the Kandep Open seat in 2012 has affected the whole district, forcing people to flee to many parts of the country while property worth millions of kina was destroyed.
Two prominent figures in PNG and arch political rivals, Alfred Manase and Treasury Minister, Don Polye belong to these two tribes and their political allies took sides to engage in a prolonged guerrilla–type tribal warfare.
Now, there are positive signs that peace will be restored. New Provincial Police Commander, Supt Philip Weila went to Kandep on March 7 to assure people that police will come in full force to bring normalcy. Not many people were present to receive the good news because they were at funerals at Lagalap and Kambia after four young men were killed that same week – two on each side.
Then on Monday March 11, Provincial Administrator, Dr Samson Amean and Rural Police Commander, Senior Inspector Martin Kelly travelled to Kandep and told the people that 60 policemen will definitely come today, March 18, and will divide into two groups – one to be based among the Kambrip and the other to operate on the Akul side.
In addition, 15 regular policemen will be based permanently in Kandep under the command of Senior Sgt Jim Panao who had already moved there on Sunday March 10, with an advance party. The war-torn district has had no police presence in the last ten years.
Dr Amean told the people that as part of the government’s over-all peace initiative he had appointed a senior public servant, Mr Ben Besawe as acting District Administer to mobilise and restore the public service machinery in the district. And he will accord him full support to ensure essential services begin to flow to the people.
“Bougainville was destroyed due to problems that started like this. Twenty years of conflict there has seen a whole generation of people deprived of formal education. Many people were killed in that conflict and all services stopped,” Dr Amean said. “And Kandep people must be warned: the same thing can happen here. You must lay down your arms and think of your children’s future.”
He said he will travel to Port Moresby to plead with Don Polye and Alfred Manase to ask them to encourage their people to stop fighting and support government initiatives to bring peace and normalcy to their district.
Leaders from other tribes who actively fought in the fight assured the Provincial Administrator, police and senior public servants from key divisions who had accompanied Dr Samson Amean - that they will withdraw their support and leave it to the Akul and Kambrip tribes to carry on with fighting if they wished.
Mr Moe Yari, a Pao clansman of the major Ambarep tribe said his men had been supporting the Kambrip tribe mainly to take revenge after Apai Kelape Sapala, was gunned down at Alawaip village by Akul tribesmen for no apparent reason. But now he said, his people will withdraw and support the government.
All the people present appreciated steps the government was taking and thanked Dr Amean for appointing Mr Ben Besawe as acting District Administrator. As soon as taking office, Mr Besawe has engaged people to clean Kandep town overgrown with tall grass. He was also encouraging 35 public servants who fled to return to their posts.
But urgent maintenance is required on government houses after opportunists had completely dismantled six houses and left others in skeletons by removing doors, window frames, furniture, etc. Five public servants who had stayed behind during the conflict could do nothing to save the houses. Even the Ima and Alitip people, the original landowners on which Kandep town sits had escaped to other parts of the country.
In other positive developments, two schools in the vicinity of the fighting zone — Marient Primary School and Kandep Primary School have resumed classes. The only problem is that while enrolment increased, teaching staff was minimal. For instance, Kandep Primary School currently has over 400 students enrolled in all grades but only ten teachers are available when it should have fifteen.
Over at Kandep High School, Provincial Administrator, Dr Samson Amean ordered an immediate investigation into allegations that K750,000 may have been misused last year. Only K120,000 was left in the school account. And office equipment worth thousands of kina is believed to be held by former headmaster, Mr Iminj Kaipas in his village.
“I am giving priority to restore services back to the war-torn Kandep District and such allegations only jeopardise my team’s efforts,” Dr Amean said. “The school was closed mid-way last year amidst serious law and order problems when the lives of the students, teachers and their families were in danger.”
As such, all school funds should have been left untouched, he said and ordered internal auditors to find out how this huge amount was used and report to him within two weeks. Despite the financial drawbacks, the school is beginning to pick up with 10 teachers on active duty with about 300 students enrolled. And gradually government services will be restored as police begin operations and key government agencies begin work.
Official figures of the total number of people killed in the fight on both sides is 57 but unconfirmed reports indicate that over seventy people have perished. Many more sustained serious injuries and innocent women were subjected to sex attacks.
This fight has seen almost all schools including the only high school, health centres and other government services shut down or destroyed. The Murip High Altitude Rice project funded by the Chinese government was reduced to ashes.

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