February 16, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s vice-president Riek Machar is heading to Jonglei, the region’s largest and most troubled state, to visit communities affected by recent fighting in the area, says his media official.
More than 100 people, mostly women and children from the Lou-Nuer population of Akobo county, died this week after they were intercepted and brutally attacked while on their seasonal migration to water sources in the north of the country.
The attack is believed to have been carried out by a combination of uniformed rebels loyal to David Yau Yau and armed Murle youth from Pibor county.
The incident caused large scale displacement within the vulnerable disarmed Lou-Nuer population, prompting fears of a humanitarian disaster in the area.
The vice-president’s press secretary, James Gatdet Dak, told the Sudan Tribune that Machar is leading a high-level delegation of official from the national government on Sunday to assess the magnitude of the humanitarian situation in the area.
Following the fact-finding visit, the delegation will also recommend further action by the government in order to restore calm and enforce law and order in the state’s troubled areas, he said.
Also accompanying the vice-president on the visit are minister of humanitarian affairs and disaster management Joseph Lual Acuil and minister of health Michael Milli Hussein, who will deliver emergency assistance, including medicine, food and non-food items to the affected population.
Jonglei state’s governor, Kuol Manyang Juuk, who will also accompany the vice-president to Akobo and Pibor counties on Sunday, was in the nation’s capital, Juba, on Friday where he briefed the cabinet meeting about the alarming insecurity situation in the state.
Meanwhile, the commissioner of Akobo County, Gooi Joyol, said thousands of people in his county have been displaced and crossed into Upper Nile state as a result of the deadly attack, adding that a significant number of people previously listed as missing had appeared in Ulang county in Upper Nile.
The commissioner also said the South Sudanese army (SPLA) forces in Jonglei state, under the command of Major-General Peter Gatdet Yak, were pursuing the rebels and had recovered thousands of cattle which were looted from the civilian population.
Jonglei state has been experiencing rebellion and inter-communal violence involving the three major communities of Lou-Nuer, Dinka Bor and Murle. The conflict is caused by cattle rustling and child abduction and has been prolonged by ongoing revenge attacks.
About 15,000 SPLA and police forces have been deployed in the state since March last year to disarm the communities. The disarmament exercise produced mixed results as the forces continue to face resistance in some areas, particularly in Pibor county.
At a communal meeting in Juba following the deadly attack in Akobo county, Lou-Nuer community members criticised the government for not protecting vulnerable populations already disarmed.