By Ngor Arol Garang
May 10, 2011 (ABYEI) — At least 86 people have been confirmed dead in two separate clashes involving armed groups of the Nuer tribe from the south of Unity state, against local residents predominantly members of Dinka tribe in Gogrial East county, Warrap state
- A picture released by the United Nations Mission in Sudan in 2009 shows a Sudanese Dinka herder walking with cattle during an annual migration from Warrap state. (AFP)
Eyewitnesses from the area say 73 people have sustained severe injuries and cattle were stolen, despite local attempts to recover them in pursuit clashes which took place at Wag village, along traditional territorial borderlines of the two states of Unity and Warrap. Some 45 automatic rifles, 1 satellite phone and heavy artilleries and were also reported captured from the attackers.
Anei Mangong, minister of information and communications in the state of Warrap confirmed the attack and killing after the attack was staged by the groups he said were “heavily armed” and looked “more organized”.
"There was an attack on Sunday in Maker Biong village in which more than 36 lives from local residents, most of whom were natives of Apuk community were lost and several others were wounded. A total of 73 were wounded in these attacks. Some of them, especially those with serious injuries, have been taken to Wau from where others were transferred to Juba and Khartoum for further intensive medical care. These are separate incidents. One occurred yesterday on Sunday 8, May 2011 and another took place in April 2011, by armed groups seen by residents coming from eastern side of Unity state. The groups were heavily armed and looked more organised.
"Some of those killed had marks identifying them as members of the Nuer tribe. I am also told they were speaking Nuer language while engaged in the fight with local people, explained Mangong, adding that the village which suffered the attack had cattle camp of about 70,000 herds of cattle drawn from different sections and clans of the village.
"The village on which they launched an attack had thousands of cattle. Some of these are now reported missing in the camp which had 70,000 herds of cattle after the attack. Some of them were driven away by the attackers. Others left confused and terrified by the shooting which subsequently led them to disperse into surrounding villages. The camp is now empty. It is completely empty because all the cows have gone. It is a real disaster considering that these cows are source of living", said the minister.
He said there were similar attacks in April 2011 in which many people were killed in the same village and several others were equally wounded and a lot of cattle taken.
"This is a repeat of the previous incident. There were similar attacks in the April by the same groups in the same place and surrounding villages and a lot of people were killed as several others sustained injuries and the cattle were taken in the same village by armed groups coming from the same route in reference to areas around Mayom and Panijar counties in Unity State", said Mangong.
John Akec, a vice chancellor of the newly established University of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, also corroborated the death of 36 people which he said were natives of Apuk community. He described the fighting as the “unprovoked” attack and that 50 fighters from the attackers’ side were found dead and more than 61 were injured.
Akec said the attack took place on 8 May 2011 at around 5 am and was carried out by armed groups believed to be from the neighbouring Unity state. They attacked a cattle camp in Maker Biong village in Gogrial East county (also known as Apuk), in Warrap state. Gogrial East County shares border with western parts of Unity state.
The unprovoked attack, he said, resulted in death of 36 Apuk natives, 50 of the attacking armed groups, and injury of 61 locals. Local sources who spoke to him said the armed groups took away large number of unidentified cattle as they moved eastwards to Unity State border.
"They were followed by the locals and fierce battle broke out in Wag near the western border of Unity State. It was at Wag that most casualties occurred and a significant number of cattle were recovered, although at a great cost in lives", he explained. He went on to say one of those who participated in the recovery confrontation with the attackers was seriously injured and said the attackers were wearing army uniform. They were professional in their attack and were well armed".
He viewed that the attacks on the local people are motivated by cattle theft and that the area since 2005 saw a lot of tribal conflict with a neighboring Dinka section which he said claimed many lives but subsided since 2009.
"The attacks are motivated by theft of cattle. Last night I took one of the young men who were injured in January 2010 to Fadhil Hospital in Khartoum. The orthopedic surgeon who saw him said his broken thigh that was treated in Khartoum Military hospital last year will need to be operated on again in order to remove a foreign body at the cost of SDG 5,000 (about US $ 2,000). This amount is beyond what he and his family can afford. Since April 2011, the militia attack has led to death of more 40 locals and more than 24 of the assailants, bringing the total death toll from both sides to 86.
"These unprovoked battles are taking place while an army posted in Panhom Weith
in Toch, close to where the fights have been taking place, is unable to do
anything. The 50 to 100 strong force is said to be under equipped and immobile.
"Another South Sudan army unit (about 5o strong) is also stationed at Mayen Jur
in the same area. These forces have been unable to provide any protection to
civilians and their properties whatsoever. With government of South Sudan inability to protect civilians and their properties and inability to impose the rule of law, and with many if not all in states in Greater Upper Nile being infested by ’militia’ phenomenon, there is no reason for us to believe that precious lives will not continue to be lost cheaply and
no one will be brought to justice", explained Akec in e-mail seen by Sudan Tribune on Monday.
Gatluak Pec, a member of the Unity State Legislative Assembly who comes from the constituency suspected of hosting groups frequently engaged in cattle rustling activities, dismissed the report saying he had no knowledge of people in his constituency believed to have gone for cattle raiding in anywhere in Warrap State.
"I returned from Mayendit and Panijier counties after paying official visit to these constituencies. Things were all right there and there were no such reports. The areas I visited were quiet and peaceful. May be these attacks may have been staged by some other groups operating around traditional borders. Who knows there could be Dinka members among them because cattle raiders are composed of elusive groups with common interest from different communities so that they avoid being detected and traced", explained Pec.