August 19, 2011, (BOR/JUBA) - At least 640 people have died, 861 injured and 208 children kidnapped in an attack on Uror County, in the north of Jonglei state on Thursday, local South Sudan officials say.
- Remains of burnt houses in Bor County, February 2011. (Photo: John Actually/ST)
Around 7,924 houses have been set on fire and over 38,000 heads of cattle stolen Sudan Tribune has been told.
The attack is believed to have been launched by neighboring Murle tribesmen, when armed groups infiltrated into Peiri and Pulchuol Payams [districts] at about 5:00am on Thursday.
Most of those who died were children according to a team of Jonglei state officials who visited the area on Friday afternoon. The team included the state minister of Public Service, Recheal Nyadut, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Gabriel Gai Riem, the Minister of Animal and Fisheries, Nyang Lul, two MPs of Uror County, Moses GatKuoth Lony and Moses Mayul Bol among others.
The attack is understood to be a revenge operation against the Lou Nuer tribe after an attack on the Murle last June in which many deaths were reported and cattle stolen.
At Bor Airport on return from Uror, Moses Gatkuoth, who is the chairperson of Peace, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs committee in the state parliament described it as a "devastating attack launched by criminals”.
Gatkuoth said that women and children were the major victims of the clashes.
According to Gatkuoth, in Peiri Payam, the death toll stands at 257, out of which 150 were women and 107 were either children or the elderly. He added that 347 people had been wounded and 132 children abducted.
- Dinka cattle moving near the Bor-Mundari border in May 2011. (Photo: John Actually/ST)
As well as burning an estimated 3,431 houses “the attackers have also partially burnt the Hospital ran by Medecins Sans Frontieres [MSF] including their car”, Gatkuoth said. Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders) is an international independent humanitarian medical organisation that delivers medical aid.
Gatkuoth was visibly emotional as he described what he saw on the fact finding mission to the effected area.
He said that in Pulchuol 138 people lost their lives in the fighting, while 284 were injured, 39 children were kidnapped and around 4,208 houses burnt to ashes.
In Muotot, part of Pulchuol Payam 245 killed, 230 wounded, 37 children abducted and 285 houses burnt. According to the teams report, a total of 383, people died in Pulchuol Payam, 514 wounded, 76 children abducted and 4,493 houses were burnt.
Gatkuoth added the attackers had also killed the deputy administrator for Pulchuol.
Jonglei’s Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Gabriel Gai Riem described what he saw as “devastation” in the villages and towns.
“Towns and villages have been devastated. Most of the houses have been burnt down and many other houses looted”, he said. “So many people are wounded, this is what we have seen”, he continued
Riem said the state government is working for peace and it will take majors steps to reduce tribal fighting. “The government always work[s] for peace and will continue to press on and to take majors that will curve down these undesirable activities”, he said.
The minister pledged that peace will come to these communities to live in harmony in the future, saying the government’s plans for peace will not be derailed by tribal conflicts.
“We will not be derailed as the government. We will not be derailed from the peace process. We will continue to press on to bring our communities together. They will have to come together and find ways under which they can coexist and live together”, said Riem.
None of the fact finding team were able to give a figure for the number of attackers killed and whether they are still being pursued although they reported the seizure of some guns.
The minister of public service, Nyadut Paul, who led the team to Uror walked to her car and drove away without a comment.
Moese Bayul Bol, one of the Uror MPs who visited the area said the attackers were armed with rocket launchers with which they destroyed the county headquarters from a distance before they arrived. The number of attackers remains unknown.
Local authorities in series of interviews with Sudan Tribune on Friday attributed the “massacre”, to the old and the long-running tribal tension between the Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic groups.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune from Bor, capital of Jonglei State, Tut Puk, the Uror county commissioner described the situation as “pathetic and unacceptable”.
“I visited the area today and the situation in which I found our people was shocking. 138 people have been identified killed and the whole area is destroyed. It is a real massacre”, explained commissioner Puk who sounded upset.
“A lot of people, particularly women with small children and the elderly people were pitilessly killed. They carried out everything and destroyed crops. Local clinics are cleared. There is nothing, not even a single bandage is left”, he said.
Charles Majok Bol, a senior official in the government of South Sudan said in a separate interview with Sudan Tribune in Juba on Friday that it was sad to hear of the attacks so soon after South Sudan’s independence in July.
“Innocent children who are our future are being killed. This is a terrible tragedy, our government must do something remedy this situation now than later”, said Bol.
He observed that inter-tribal conflicts in Jonglei have been downplayed and not taken seriously by the state and Juba-based government.
“So far, I am not aware of any disarmament that I know to have been carried out successfully. I have also not heard of anyone brought to book due to raids carried out by Lou Nuer against Murle, or those carried out by Murle against Lou Nuer. No serious prophylactic measures were taken to prevent future raids”, he explained.
He claimed that in June, Lou Nuer carried out a massive offense against Murle in Pibor County, killing many Murle, including children and women, burning hundreds of villages and taking thousands of cattle.
“As usual, it was expected that Murle will hit back. This is exactly what has happened. It is also a matter of time before Lou Nuer revenges. Murle too will do the same and the practice will continue [unless] either of the tribe is cleared or else something is done to avoid extinction of the other”, he warned.
“Can the government intervene so that lives of the innocent civilians are saved”, he asked.