Kabwum district to be restored

Life has been painful for the people of Kabwum district, especially after the 2022 national general elections violence.

It was a first-of-its-kind violent experience for the people of Kabwum when, on Sunday, July 17th, 2022, a large number of Kabwum’s candidates and their supporters mobilised and destroyed all ballot boxes and papers, rampaged through the district office and burnt two vehicles.

This happened a day after violence broke out at Mutzing Station, in Markham district.

Patricia Wellem has been the district office secretary since 2005. She shared that she had never been more scared in her 19-year career in the district headquarters.

“I am actively involved in elections. I was part of the 2012, 2017 and 2022 elections; working with assistant returning officers (ARO) and returning officers (RO).

“In the 2022 elections, when we entered the third day of counting in the morning, the incident occurred,” recalled Wellem.

“Those outside, I don’t know what they were thinking but in frustration, they came in and broke the office and looted it.

“As the secretary, I was responsible for the election food stock. They broke the window to my office, went in, took out the food and ate them. After that, they started their rampage.

“My office is behind me,” she gestured to the brick building that was painted in the Morobean colours of green, yellow and blue.

“There’s the district administration, district treasury, BSP bank, police station and the education office. After they had broken into my office and gotten the food, they took out the ballot boxes that we had already counted and left in the conference room, and smashed them.

“We had a police vehicle and a vehicle from the education office parked in the premises. Our district administrator was driving the education vehicle and parked it by the fence. They came and burnt the police and education vehicles then went into the filing room and started a fire there. Others went in after and put out the fire.

“The group broke every door in the buildings, removed printers and computers and whatever that was in there, pulled out the drawers, removed documents and tore them up; everything was vandalised.”

Public servants, including Lae-based police, were outnumbered and kept out of the mob’s way as they wreaked havoc.

Women, children and the elderly stayed away from the area as the mob, armed with guns, were involved in a shootout with additional police manpower that was sent from Lae.

The Kabwum district headquarters remained closed for two years until Morobe Governor, Luther Wenge, and the Kabwum district reconciliation committee facilitated a peace ceremony over the weekend.

On Saturday, June 22nd, the four local level governments of Selepet, Komba, Deyamos and Yus apologised to the Kabwum public servants and Morobe Provincial Government. The next day, after a church service in the morning with Governor Wenge, Selepet LLG, where the district HQ is built, made peace with the public servants, including acting district administrator, Ezekiel Nigo, and welcomed them back to occupy the district office.

Governor Wenge presented K200,000 to Nigo to fix the damaged buildings before the public servants can return to work.

Loop Author