December 29, 2011 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar, attempted to stop further conflict in Jonglei state by visiting the affected areas on Wednesday.
- Lou Nuer youth leader speaking in Linkuangole, Jonglei state. 28 Dec. 2011 (ST)
It is unclear whether the reconciliation efforts have worked with reports that Lou Nuer youth have raided Pibor county, despite Machar’s call for an end to hostilities.
Machar addressed Lou Nuer youth in Linkuangole Payam [district] on Wednesday as part of efforts to end a week of clashes that has killed over scores of people.
In a video recorded in Linkuangole on Wednesday extended to Sudan Tribune, a huge number of armed youths are seen shouting as their leader addresses them in presence of a high level delegation led by Machar on Wednesday.
Lou Nuer youth launched a retaliatory attack on villages in Linkuangole in Pibor county, home to the Murle tribe on December 23. Officials from Pibor put the death toll from the initial attack at 24 with five people wounded. The total number of injured is unknown.
A person in the team that visited Linkuangole with Vice President on Wednesday told the Sudan Tribune that there are several dead bodies lying in the street of the deserted district headquarters.
The source said that the Lou Nuer has lost over 40 people in the fighting but the group had taken control of the area and many buildings had been set on fire.
In the video, the Vice President is seen introducing, South Sudan’s justice minister, John Luk. Luk failed to win the parliamentary seat for the area in the 2010 elections, losing to independent candidate Timothy Taban.
Machar told the thousands of Luo Nuer youth gathered in the area to cease hostilities and return to their villages.
The group responded by criticising the South Sudanese government’s response to previous attacks allegedly carried out by Murle on their land, adding that no top government official even paid a visit.
Lou Nuer attacked Murle villages in June in response to what they said repeated cattle raids and child abduction. In August, Murle raided Lou Nuer villages in retaliation. The clashes have killed over 1,000 people in Jonglei state this year alone, according to the United Nations.
On Wednesday, the executive director of Pibor county, Allan Kirera, said at least 20 people have died on Murle side in the recent fighting.
Machar’s intervention was an attempt to stop the Lou-Nuer youth from advancing to capture the Pibor county headquarters of Murle community.
- South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar (Centre) addressing the youth as Justice minister John Luk (Left) looks on in Linkuangole, Jonglei state. 28 Dec. 2011
According to youth leaders, more than nine thousand heavily armed Lou-Nuer youth this week mobilised themselves and moved towards Murle land with the intention to carry out revenge attacks and capture all payams and county headquarters of Murle land and to disarm the Murle community by force.
On Monday they captured the strategic Likwangale payam, which is only 25 kilometers from the Pibor county headquarters. They also destroyed a number of villages and planned to attack Pibor county headquarters itself on Wednesday in addition to other payams including Buma and Gumruk payams.
MACHAR GIVEN HOSTILE WELCOME
Vice President, Riek Machar, and Minister of Justice, John Luk Jok, were accompanied by members of the national parliament from Lou-Nuer and Murle on Wednesday when they visited Jonglei to try and prevent further violence.
Flown into the captured town of Linkwangale by a United Nations helicopter, with only ten bodyguards Machar was engulfed by thousands of armed and angry youth as soon as he landed. Some of them asked him to go back immediately, saying they would not accept to meet with him if he came to stop the fighting.
The scene, witnessed by Sudan Tribune, was chaotic as the Vice President insisted that he must meet with them and tell them the message he carried as he began to move from the airstrip to the middle of the burnt town where their top leaders were. As he reached the center the visibly angry youth reluctantly accepted to listen to him.
“Don’t even clap for him even if he says good things,” shouted one of the youth organisers.
The youth leaders criticised the government, saying it overprotected the Murle community at the expense of the Lou-Nuer community. They said they were taking revenge for the attack against their community by Murle in August in a village called Pieri in which more than 700 people mostly women and children are reported to have been killed.
The August incident was the first major intercommunity attack after South Sudan gained independence in July this year.
The youth also claimed that the government had failed to disarm the Murle so they had been forced to take the law into their own hands to capture the Murle towns and villages and disarm the community by force on behalf of the government.
“We are at war [with the Murle], why do you come now,” one of the youth leaders asked the Vice President.
“Don’t accept that we meet with him [Vice President]. If we let him speak to us he will try to neutralise the fighting mood we have,” shouted another.
The leader and commander of the Lou-Nuer youth, Bor Doang, in the meeting told the Vice President that his youth planned to stay in Murle land for few months until all their areas were liberated and disarmed.
Doang said 63 of his people were wounded during the fighting but was reluctant to reveal how many of his men had died.
VP TELLS LUO-NUER TO GO HOME
The Vice President urged the Lou-Nuer youth to withdraw from the town they captured and go back to Lou-Nuer land. He also warned them not to attempt to attack any of the other Murle towns including the Pibor county headquarters, saying their actions were criminal. The youth wanted their wounded to be evacuated first before they could begin to withdraw, which was done on Thursday.
The Vice President said he would spend the night with them on Thursday to make sure that they moved out from the area. He also said he would track their movement and follow them until they crossed back into Lou-Nuer territory.
At the Pibor county headquarters, the Vice President met with Murle community leaders and asked them to call back their youth who went to the Lou-Nuer land to come back so that he can meet with them inside Pibor town on Sunday.
The population of Pibor has reduced significantly because people have evacuated for fear of imminent attack by the Lou-Nuer youth, according to the acting county commissioner, Allan.
The Acting Commissioner said he could not determine the total number of his people killed because many are still missing.
During the Thursday meeting in Pibor town, the Murle youth leaders said that the Jonglei state administration did not care about the conflict between the Lou-Nuer, Dinka Bor and Murle communities. The Vice President however refuted this, saying it was the Lou-Nuer and Murle who were responsible for the violence.
Situated in Jonglei state, Lou-Nuer community is one of the ten major sections of the Nuer tribe and is the single biggest community in the state.
JONGLEI COMMISSIONERS SWORN IN
- Governor Kuol Manyang and his ministers and commissioners posed for a group photo after swearing—in ceremony in Bor on Thursday December 29, 2011 (ST)
Eleven county commissioners, including five new faces, took oaths of office in Bor on Thursday after being appointed by Governor Kuol Manyang who witnessed the swearing ceremony.
In his address to the local leaders, governor said that division of state into counties was not intended to separate people by tribe.
“Our system of governance, according to our constitutions, divides the country into counties (...) in line with the policy of taking town to our people,” he said.
- Jonglei county commissioners take oath of office in Bor on December 29, 2011 (ST)
Governor Kuol maintained the commissioner of Bor, Twic East, Pigi, Fangak, Nyirol and Akobo but replaced Pibor, Pochala, Uror, Duk and Ayod.
The local leaders pledged their allegiance to Manyang and pledged to pursue of peace and reconciliation in the state.