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Lakes state: Revenge clashes leave 25 dead and 30 wounded

January 18, 2013 (RUMBEK) - Fighting in Lakes State’s Rumbek Central County has left 25 people dead and 30 people with gunshot wounds, in clashes on Friday that began earlier this week over grazing areas between rival cattle herding groups, authorities have said.

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Lakes state’s outgoing minister of information and communication, Charles Badiri Mayen, 18 January 2013 (Photo: ST)

Two South Sudanese soldiers and two policemen were among those killed while attempting to separate the groups during the gun battle, the state Minister of Information and Communication, Charlies Badiri Mayen told Sudan Tribune on Friday.

The Amothnhom and Panyon sections of the Dinka ethnic group graze their cattle on a vast fertile territory - known as the toch - sharing the Marial-Bek cattle camp, which is located in Rumbek East County 15 km northeast of Rumbek Central County.

The revenge attacks on Friday in Abarkou village follow clashes which began on Wednesday, 15 kilometres northeast of Rumbek town in an area between Marial-Bek and Ghun cattle camps.

The attacks on Wednesday killed 10 and left 13 injured, meaning that a total of 35 have died and 43 wounded since the clashes began.

Lakes State’s council of ministers held an emergency security meeting on Friday to discuss how to respond to the violence. The state cabinet has ordered the army and police to start a fresh attempt to disarm the civilian population and arrest those responsible on both sides of the conflict, according to Mayen.

The government also resolved to arrest anyone found sitting under a tree, which has been outlawed in Lakes State to discourage idleness and encourage people to take up farming, which is relatively uncommon in the culture of some of South Sudan’s cattle-dominated groups. However, the state law can appear contrary to South Sudan’s constitution which allows freedom of assembly.

The Commissioner of Rumbek Central County, Abraham Mayen Kuc and his counterpart in Rumbek East County, Mayen Kuc Adhil have been instructed to conduct an immediate investigation to arrest those suspected of taking part in the violence.

“We must disarm them by all cost” Minister Mayen told Sudan Tribune on Friday, adding that the pastoralist groups would be disarmed by force if they did not hand over their weapons peacefully.

The Lakes State government says it has taken more then 17,000 firearms from the civilian population since the region gained autonomy in 2005 after decades of conflict. South Sudan alleges that pastoralist are able to rearm by purchasing guns from Unity State, which has a border with Sudan. Juba accuses Khartoum of trying to destabilise the young nation.

"We are very tired of those pastoralists fighting themselves without objective" he said.

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Lakes State Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agency Benjamin Makuer Mabor, 26 June 2012 (ST)

Lakes State government has closed all markets and public places and extra soldiers and policemen have been deployed inside Rumbek town, with more well equipped police sent to the area of the clashes to try and prevent further conflict.

There are reports that the Nyang and Joth sections of the Dinka has taken sides in the dispute and participated in some of the violence.

The roots of the feud dates back to November last year when young men from the Panyon and Amothnhon communities of the Dinka ethnic group are alleged to have exchanged verbal insults at a cattle camp, 34km north-east of the state capital, Rumbek.

The November clash killed 12 people and wounded 23, Lakes State’s Minister of Local Government and Law and Enforcement, Benjamin Makuer Mabor, told Sudan Tribune last year.