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UPDATE - Jonglei government condemns violence in Akobo

* Adds details of document presented to Jonglei Governor and UNMISS

February 12, 2013 (BOR) - The deputy governor of Jonglei state, Hussein Maar Nyuot, has condemned a brutal attack in Akobo county which left 118 civilians and 14 South Sudanese army (SPLA) soldiers dead.

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Jonglei state deputy governor Hussein Mar Nyot (Source: http://jonglei-sd.org)

The incident, reportedly carried out by criminal elements within the Murle tribe believed to affiliated with David Yau Yau’s rebel group, occurred in the remote Walgak payam (district), during the community’s yearly migration to cattle camps at the Sobat River.

Maar, who has just returned from the area, said he went to pay his condolences to the families of the dead in Akobo and their relatives scattered in the area.

“It was the innocent killing, nobody in the state can tolerate that as all of us are working for peace and it is very unfortunate that there is a group that has not listen[ed] to [these] peace messages,” said Maar, who doubles as Jonglei’s minister of information.

He also praised the work of the SPLA forces in recovering cattle raided during the attack.

“I want to [take] this opportunity to congratulate our SPLA forces in Akobo for the good work that they have done, they pursued the criminal, they intercepted them and managed to recover the cattle but so far, children and women are not recovered,” said Maar.

He said the SPLA was tracking the assailants and was still hopeful of recovering some of the abducted women and children.

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Map showing location of Jonglei state in South Sudan.

In a statement released by Akobo county commissioner Goi Jooyul after the attacks, he said “unarmed Akobo civilians escorting their cattle were murdered in cold blood” after being violently attacked by a heavily-armed group, some of whom were dressed in military attire.

The commissioner confirmed that an unspecified number of women and children had been abducted, while thousands of head of cattle were also seized in the surprise attack, which had overwhelmed an SPLA force accompanying the people.

Survivors have confirmed the use of heavy weaponry, including RPGs by the assailants, as well as the use of spears and machetes by some.

Addressing the media in his office, Maar described the attacks as “a very sad moment” for Jonglei state, which he said had been enjoying a relatively peaceful period for the past year.

Maar said that calm had been shattered after criminals affiliated with the David Yau Yau-led rebel group started raiding neighbouring counties.

He appealed to security forces in the region to pursue an urgent campaign of disarmament across the state over the next two months, warning if it “is not done now it will be too late and they [armed gangs] will cause a lot of insecurity, particularly during the rainy season”.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Bor to condemn the recent attack in Akobo, calling on the government to implement a comprehensive and universal disarmament campaign in all Jonglei counties.

Demonstrators went to the governor’s office where they presented a document containing their grievances. A copy of the document obtained by Sudan Tribune said the conflict between the Luo Nuer and Murle communities had been ongoing since 2006 and has had “devastating consequences”.

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Petition from the Great Akobo Youth Association (GAYA) regarding the Murle attacks in Luo Nuer areas

The petition from the Great Akobo Youth Association (GAYA) accused the state and national governments of keeping silent on the issue.

The reason behind the continued raids is that the Murle were not properly disarmed in during the initial disarmament campaign that began in March last year following a spike in raids between the two groups at the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012.

GAYA claim that since 2006, the Luo Nuer in Jonglei have been disarmed four times but each time the Murle have avoided the process, describing the government’s actions as “unfair”.

The community accused the governor of deploying more troops and soldiers to protect his own Dinka Bor community rather than the Luo Nuer.

The youth association warned that if the government continued to fail in their constitutional duty to protect them, they would have to take the issue into their own hands.

They asked the government to:

  1. Rearm Luo Nuer youth who have been disarmed so they can protect themselves against threats and violence;
  2. Deploy more SPLA troops across all border and to surround cattle camps;
  3. Construct roads across the counties’ borders and also to the Akobo county headquarters;
  4. Provide the county with a telecommunications network
  5. Return abducted children and women;
  6. Return cattle which has been raided since the beginning of disarmament campaigns in Jonglei

The group also called on the United Nations and other humanitarian organisations to remain impartial, accusing the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) of providing protection to the Murle, while ignoring the Luo Nuer community. GAYA also asked for assistance to be provided to the survivors of the recent attack and the installation of a radio antenna in the area so they can receive broadcasts from the UN-sponsored Radio Miraya FM.

(ST)

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Petition from the Great Akobo Youth Association (GAYA) regarding the Murle attacks in Luo Nuer areas