March 23, 2012 (JUBA) – South Sudan army has reported clashes with some armed youth of Lou-Nuer in Jonglei state resisting a disarmament process the government launched after a series of retaliatory attacks in December.
- Vice President, Riek Machar, tells Lou-Nuer youth to withdraw from Linkwangale, Dec. 28, 2011 (ST)
This follows a similar clash with a group of Murle youth who also resisted to disarm in Pibor county last week and shot at the army, killing one instantly, and disappeared into the bushes.
The head of the forces that carried out the disarmament, Lt. Gen. Kuol Deim Kuol, told the press on Thursday that the army clashed with a group of Lou-Nuer armed youth, sometimes called the White Army, in Uror county in the state.
Kuol further said a self-proclaimed spiritual leader in the area resisted the disarmament exercise resulting to the clashes. He said four people were killed from the youth side while four others were wounded from the army, adding that the army will pursue the youth to disarm.
This week the Vice President, Riek Machar, toured Akobo and Uror counties and urged the communities to disarm peacefully. However, chiefs accepted the disarmament but asked the government to make sure the Murle are equally disarmed. They claimed that the Murle are hiding in bushes with their weapons to avoid the disarmament and that the soldiers do not know how to find them.
Murle leaders denied rejecting the disarmament but also wanted to make sure the Lou-Nuer and the Dinka Bor are disarmed. They also claimed that the Lou-Nuer armed youth have moved to either Jikany-Nuer areas or Ethiopian borders to avoid the disarmament. They also said the Dinka Bor have moved to Nimule in Eastern Equatoria with their guns avoiding the exercise in Bor areas.
In response to the clashes with the South Sudan army in Uror county, a press release purportedly circulated by the Lou-Nuer armed youth in the internet accused Bor and Juba of conspiring to fight with the Lou-Nuer and Murle using the pretext of disarmament as a way to harm the two communities.
They claimed that heavy clashes in Uror county occurred three days ago when 1,200 SPLA soldiers were deployed to attack the youth center where the self-proclaimed spiritual leader was staying. The youth got information ahead and laid ambush to the army leaving 420 SPLA soldiers killed, 543 weapons captured including two military trucks, according to the release widely circulated in the internet fora.
The press release said only seven members of the youth were killed and 24 wounded. They warned that their group of 13,000 heavily armed in the state will forge an alliance with the Mule armed youth and rebels in Unity state to capture Bor town and remove governor Kuol Manyang, who they accused of plotting against the two communities.
However, Kuol downplayed the threat, saying only the spiritual leader with some youth are the only ones resisting to disarm.
UN and members of the international community have expressed concern that the disarmament may turn violent in the process unless carried out voluntarily and peacefully.
Kuol said 9,000 guns have already been collected so far while the exercise targets 20,000 weapons.