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Visit of VP after 100 killed “of no use”, say Akobo residents

February 17, 2013 (BOR) - South Sudan’s vice-president, Riek Machar, visited Jonglei state’s Akobo county on Sunday following clashes that killed over 100 people on 9 February, receiving a negative reception from some angry residents.

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South Sudan’s vice-president Riek Machar and Jonglei governor Kuol Manyang Juuk arriving at Bor airport from Akobo county on 17 February 2013 (ST)

Machar visited the area to call for calm and express condolences to the families of those who were killed in the attack, which has been blamed on an armed group from the Murle tribe in Pibor county, but his government has been criticised for its slow response and failure to protect civilians after the they were disarmed last year.

The Akobo community is increasingly frustrated over the failure of the government to protect them from such attacks, submitting a petition of demands to the governor’s office on 12 February last week in the aftermath of the raid which killed 118 people and 14 soldiers, according to local officials.

Akobo residents say that the neighbouring Murle tribe was not properly disarmed in a campaign that began almost a year ago, leaving them vulnerable to attack. They have called for the whole state to be universally disarmed to stop the cycle of violence.

A senior member of the community in Akobo told Sudan Tribune on Sunday that there was “no use” in the vice-president visiting “us after hundreds were killed, that will not bring them back”.

Preferring to speak anonymously, the community leader said: “We told [Machar] that [the] South Sudan government is not protecting us and that since we were disarmed, we are now exposed to threats from our neighbouring Murle communities, little has been done about it by the government”.

The attack on 9 February has been blamed on armed Murle youth and elements of a rebel group led by David Yau Yau, who rebelled against the South Sudanese government for a second time last year.

“We are visiting Jonglei particularly Akobo west where the incident of over 100 people were killed in a cattle raid by the criminals coming from the Murle land so we have visited the place to give our condolences to the population there and in expressing our condemnation for what had happened”, said Machar.

“We really called for calm in the area and we will also be visiting Pibor to talk to [the] Murle so that they can caution these criminals if [they] have the way to access them”, he continued.

Machar said that the criminals who carried out the raid were affiliated with Yau Yau’s rebellion but expressed hope that “the population will see the importance of having peaceful coexistence with their neighbours such as Nuer and the Dinka”.

He said the government was urging Murle chiefs and elders to isolate the rebels and “bring them to book so that justice is served”.

Up until Machar’s visit, the Juba government had remained silent on the incident, which took place in Akobo county two weeks ago. Jonglei’s governor, Kuol Manyang Juuk, was among the political figures who accompanied the vice-president.

Akobo has suffered a series of attacks by either militia or suspected Murle criminals since the signing of the Jonglei inter-communal peace agreement in May last year.