January 24, 2013 (RUMBEK) – At least two people died Thursday when forces from South Sudan’s army (SPLA) clashed with a group of armed pastoralists at a cattle camp in Lakes state, eyewitnesses told Sudan Tribune.
Violence reportedly erupted on grazing land in Toch, located within the Marial-bek cattle camp, when SPLA forces and police surrounded the cattle camp and allegedly ordered a group of youth to vacate the area.
Eyewitnesses said the directive did not go down well with the youth and it was their failure to comply that sparked the gunfight, as armed pastoralists moved outside the cattle camp.
“Heavy and well equipped SPLA [soldiers] and police are being deployed around the cattle camp and youth are now deserting the camp, walking deep into the forest ready to fight the SPLA,” an eyewitness said by phone on Thursday morning.
Lakes state, has in recent weeks, been marred by series of violent cattle-related attacks, leaving many dead and scores injured.
On Monday, South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir sacked the Lakes state governor, Chol Tong Mayay, but gave no reason for issuing the decree. Kiir also appointed Major Matur Chut as acting governor of Lakes state.
However, critics claim the Lakes state administration failed to contain the violence in the region, saying this may have led to the removal of the governor, who was elected in 2010.
Youth leaders in cattle camps have already voiced their concerns over the newly-appointed caretaker governor, describing him as a military leader likely to rule the state with “an iron fist.”
Lakes state information minister Charles Mayen said the situation had returned to normal by Thursday evening.
“[The] state is [now] normal and efforts are being done to bring [the] situation to complete normal,” said Mayen in a separate interview.
Also underway is a move by state authorities to forcefully disarm the civilian population, after sectional clashes erupted in Rumbek central county for the first time, he told Sudan Tribune in an earlier interview,.
On 18 January, Amothnhom and Panyon inter-clans clashes in the state left more than 25 people dead and about 30 with gunshot wounds.