January 17, 2012 (BOR) – Jonglei state governor, Kuol Manyang Juuk, said on Tuesday that at least 46 people were killed and seven wounded in Duk county following an attack late on Monday, by members of the Murle ethnic group from Pibor county.
- Residents of Duk Padiet stand near the airstrip two days after the village was attacked by the neighboring Lou Nuer tribe in sept 2009 (photo UN).
The Murle had reportedly captured and burnt down the county’s main town, Duk Padiet, home of the Dinka Bor ethnic group, before they were forced out of the area.
The reprisal attacks began a week ago in response to a two-week offensive by armed members of the Lou-Nuer community of Akobo and Uror County, which Pibor authorities claim left over 3,000 dead, 1,500 women and children abducted and 89,000 heads of cattle stolen.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the South Sudanese government dispute the figures.
It was not clear why the Murle decided to also attack the Dinka community of Duk County, on Sunday. However, reports have suggested that hundreds of armed men from the Dinka community joined the 6,000 Lou-Nuer fighters in the New Year assault on Pibor, perhaps prompting the retaliatory attacks on the Dinka.
South Sudan’s minister for Interior Affairs, Alison Manana Magia, arrived in Bor early on Tuesday morning and held a close door meeting with the Jonglei state government.
Speaking at a press briefing, the minister said the government is working hard to improve security in Jonglei. He also mentioned that a disarmament campaign will be launched across the 11 counties of Jonglei state, but he did not mention when this would start.
Governor Manyang said the attackers are being pursued by local youths but downplayed the government’s ability to tackle the situation. He added that the area needs better roads so that security forces can respond to conflict faster. He urged the government to speed up infrastructure projects.
It is claimed that one attacker was killed and found to be wearing military uniform; supporting earlier allegations that Murle raiders include defectors from the South Sudanese army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
The UN estimates that 60,000 people have been affected by the ongoing violence between the Murle and Luo-Nuer in Jonglei.
The Deputy Spokesperson for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Eduardo del Buey said on Tuesday that his organisation had "responded flexibly and vigorously to the growing threat there while still carrying out its peacekeeping responsibilities elsewhere in the country".
He added that "the Mission mobilized 1,000 of its troops for deployment to the area, a figure that represents nearly half of the mission’s 2,100 combat-ready personnel".
When the Luo-Nuer initially raided Pibor County, the UN and the SPLA were completely outnumbered and unable to stop the advance to save the centre of Pibor town.
There are reports that UN peacekeepers stayed in their barracks rather than trying to confront the armed group.
Del Buey also said that "the Mission was working closely with the Government of South Sudan and was engaging national and community leaders, urging them to end the cycle of violence and peacefully settle their longstanding grievances and differences".
Due to its remote location UNMISS’s lack of air assets was highlighted, with a Russian craft reportedly refusing to take part in the response. The Deputy Spokesperson said that peacekeepers did reach Pibor despite these issues.