Home | News    Tuesday 3 January 2012

S. Sudan: 50,000 displaced as Pibor attacks condemned

January 2, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s Human Rights Society for Advocacy (SSHURSA) called for the immediate withdrawal of the Lou-Nuer from Pibor County and an end to over a week of fighting in Jonglei state, on Monday.

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IDPs from the Murle tribe, wait to receive food rations and other items from the World Food Programme at a distribution point in Pibor town, in the Sudanese state of Jonglei. (file/UN)

The UN estimates that between 20,000 and 50,000 people have been displaced by the Luo-Nuer attacks on areas which are home to the Murle ethnic group. Violence between the rival cattle herding group has killed approximately 1,000 people since June 2010.

Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, told Reuters that the displaced are "without water, shelter and food. They are hiding in the bush".

Medicine Sans Frontier, which provides the only health centres in the area, has ceased working in Pibor as two of their clinics have been damaged and most of their local staff have fled south with the rest of the population.

On Monday 2 January, Reuters reported that according to UN sources around 3,000 soldiers and 800 policeman were being deployed to Pibor. However, South Sudan’s military have said that an extra 2,000 police and undisclosed number of troops would be sent.

Although the UN and government troops were unable to stop the advance of around 6,000 Luo-Nuer armed men further into Pibor county on 31 December, they remain in control of the centre of Pibor town. However they have stated that large areas have been burnt to the ground.

The military reported on Monday that an attack by the Luo-Nuer on an army barracks in Pibor had been repulsed.

The Pibor commissioner has told the Sudan Tribune that he estimates that hundreds have died in the clashes with the Luo-Nuer, who are reported to be moving further south towards the fleeing population.

South Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar, told the BBC on Monday that civilians had been informed that they would be safer if they moved to specific areas. Meanwhile the UN has advised the Murle population to flee the area.

"CIVILIANS MUST BE PROTECTED"

SSHURSA urged the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and police not to use unnecessary or disproportionate force on the armed Lou-Nuer civilians but rather they should protect vulnerable groups.

The indigenous human rights group asked that the government and UN agencies to work together with the local communities to devise mechanisms to put the tribal and inter-tribal conflicts to an end in Jonglei state.

Investigations to bring the perpetrators to justice should be instigated, the organisation said, adding that the growing humanitarian situation must also be addressed. The killing of innocent civilians, particularly women and children, was a serious human rights violation, the SSHURSA said.

The advocacy group further added that it believed the Jonglei state government to be biased in dealing with tribal conflicts, particularly when it comes to the protection of smaller ethnic groups.

SSHURSA allege that community leaders at a state and national level are "good in making statements publicly but encouraging silently their armed civilians to attack each other”.

“However, regardless of all these obstacles still efforts must be exerted to ensure that this senseless conflict is brought to a halt and the local tribes are encouraged to peacefully co-exist”.

The advocacy group recommended that the government and UN create buffer zones between the warring Jonglei tribes to prevent armed civilians from crossing to attack each other.

“SSHURSA urges the aid agencies to immediately deliver humanitarian assistance to the displaced population in the fighting zones. The life of these vulnerable groups is now in critical danger and must be rescued immediately.”

AKOBO COUNTY ATTACKED

SSHURSA said it also condemns an attack on civilians in Akobo County on 1 January. The group said that the attack which was carried out by unknown gunmen killed five people and a further five were abducted.

Since South Sudan’s independence in July 2011 cattle raiding and revenge attacks have continued despite attempts by the government to disarm the population.

Decades of civil war with north Sudan have left a legacy of poverty and underdevelopment which has led to fierce competition over resources. There is also a high proliferation of weapons.

Cattle are still an essential part of the South Sudanese economy as they demonstrate status and are used to pay dowries in many areas.

The clashes between the Luo-Nuer and the Murle began as cattle raids but the latest attack seems to be as more about revenge than cattle raiding or looting.

LUO-NUER DEMANDS

The Lou-Nuer armed group are demanding the recovery of 180 women and children allegedly kidnapped by the rival Murle in August during an attack in Uror County.

The Lou-Nuer fighters claim that the attack, which began last week was ’self defense’ and ’retaliation’. The group is now demanding that the SPLA disarm the Murle, before they hand in their weapons.

Statements from the group say that they will not leave Pibor county until all the Murle have been disarmed.

LAKES STATE CALLS FOR END OF CATTLE RAIDING

The Governor of Lakes state Chol Tong Mayay called for an end to cattle raiding and violence in the state in his New Year address in Rumbek on Sunday 1 January.

Speaking at the Lakes state assembly the Governor called upon MPs to forget their political differences and focus on developing the state.

"The year 2012 will be a year for peace and reconcilition as well development in remote places" he said. "I need a peaceful state, let all cattle rustling stop between Yirol West and Rumbek East as well Rumbek North and Cueibet."

(ST)