April 09, 2012 (BOR) – A self-proclaimed “prophet from God” in Jonglei state is thought to be having vast influence among local people, according to local officials.
- People displaced by the Jonglei conflict (UN)
Dak Kueth, a Lou-Nuer spiritual leader known locally as a “magician”, has armed youths who are acting as his bodyguards and receives cattle looted from neighbouring tribes, according to ex-abductees.
Kueth is unlike the "spear masters" of other states who use spears in their spiritual practises.
Kuol Deim Kuol, the commander in charge of Operation Restore Peace explained that Kueth in Uror county is the only influential person in the state opposing the disarmament. Kuol alleged that Kueth has instructed his followers to refuse to hand over their arms.
When the SPLA and police attempted to disarm him at his compound in March, a battle broke out, leading to the death of at least five people.
Former abductees claimed that magician Dak Kueth holds a senior position in Uror county. Nurah Borotus, a woman abducted on 1 January from Pibor county and taken to Uror county managed to escape on 23 January to Waat, the headquarters of Uror, said she was taken to the magician’s home by police afterwards.
“The magician wanted cows from the man who abducted me,” Borotus said. “When I had escaped to police in Waat, I was taken back to the magician home by police. He was convinced by the police that I cannot be given back to the man who abducted me because government will not allow that,” she added.
Borotus was later reunited with her relatives in Pibor county. Speaking to reporters in Bor before her departure to Pibor in February, Borotus said Kueth the magician is well equipped, and owns a satellite phone.
The UN estimated in January that 120,000 people have been displaced by the Jonglei conflict.
On Christmas Eve 2011, 6,000 armed Lou-Nuer youths launched what they described as a retaliatory attack aimed at rescuing their abducted children and women from Pibor county, home to the Murle ethnic group. The Murle responded by counter-raiding in Lou-Nuer areas including an attack in Akobo county on 9 March when 303 people were killed, according to the county commissioner, Goi Joyol.
The SPLA blame the mobilisation of youths from both communities to
attack rival tribes on spiritual leaders like the Lou-Nuer “magician” Dak Kueth.
Disarmament is progressing without resistance apart from “the magician [Dak Kueth] ...who committed atrocities in [Pibor county’s district of] Likuangule” last year, according to Kuol.
Kueth escaped to Ethiopia to evade prosecution, according to Kuol.
Moses Gatkuoth Lony, a member of the Jonglei state legislative assembly representing Uror county who is also the chairperson of peace, human rights and humanitarian affairs in Jonglei, said security forces did not approach the magician skillfully. According to Gatkuoth, all commissioners and members of parliament from Lou-Nuer areas had a meeting in the compound of the spiritual leader and convinced him to voluntarily disarm, to which he allegedly agreed. The SPLA agents reportedly surrounded his compound at night and the fight started, said Gatkuoth.
Gatkuoth said the magicians are “respected for prophesying rains, victories in wars as well as losses. The 1991 White Army marauding on Bor villages, popularly known as the ’Bor Massacre’, is alleged to have been influenced by a magician known as ’wur-nyang’."
Jongei is South Sudan’s largest state. The predominant religions are Christianity, traditional African beliefs and combinations of the both. It has two Christian dioceses of Bor and Twic East headed by bishops Ruben Akurdit and Ezekiel Diing respectively. It is home to six tribes main ethnic groups; Jie, Kachipo, Dinka Bor, Nuer, Anyuak and Murle.
Traditional spiritual leaders are also popular in the Murle ethnic group.
However, the Nuer White Army, a militia which claims to be protecting Jonglei’s Luo-Nuer civilians and cattle from Murle aggression has described their rejection of the leadership structures tradtionally used to mediate such conflicts, describing themselves as a “youth movement”.
A prominent Murle rebel from Pibor, David Yau Yau announced his return to a position of opposition to the government in Juba in April.