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Jonglei: South Sudan’s VP calls on defiant armed Lou Nuer youth to withdraw from Pibor

December 31, 2011 (JUBA/BOR) – South Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar, has called on Lou-Nuer youth to implement the verbal agreement he reached with them on Wednesday 28 December and withdraw back to the Nuer territory. Machar warned them not to advance towards headquarters of the Murle community.

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Vice President, Riek Machar, tells Lou-Nuer youth to withdraw from Linkwangale, Dec. 28, 2011 (ST)

Earlier this week, several thousand armed Lou-Nuer youth marched onto Murle land and captured a strategic payam [district] called Likwangole, which is about 25 kilometers from the county headquarters. The youth announced that they would continue to capture Pibor town and other payams and villages until the Murle community was completely “liberated and disarmed”.

The group claimed that they were carrying out a revenge attack for the killing of more than 700 of their members, mostly women and children, by armed youth from the Murle community in a village called Pieri in August.

According to the Vice President’s Press Secretary, James Gatdet Dak, who accompanied the Vice President to Pibor county, Machar flew to the isolated payam of Likwangole on Wednesday to try to convince the Lou-Nuer youth to withdraw and move back to their territory.

The youth, who at first refused to meet with Machar, finally agreed to withdraw on the condition that their wounded were evacuated first, before they withdrew to Lou-Nuer areas of Jonglei state.

The wounded were evacuated on Thursday and on Friday the Lou-Nuer youth informed the Vice President, who was spending the night with them. However instead of withdrawing as they had agreed the Luo Nuer youth diverted their route and headed towards the Pibor county headquarters.

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Jonglei state, South Sudan. (Wiki Commons)

The Governor of Jonglei State, told the BBC on Friday that the youth were now demanding that the Lou-Nuer women and children who had been abducted must be handed over by the Murle community before they stop their attacks.

Juuk said that because the Lou Nuer were moving in the bush it be impossible for the UN to contain the violence. Most of South Sudan’s army is deployed on the border with north Sudan due unrest there in recent months, he said.

"We can’t work miracles," he told the BBC.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said that they had intercepted about six thousand armed Lou-Nuer youth moving toward Pibor county headquarters on Friday burning villages and taking cattle on the way.

According to the UN report, tens of thousands of civilians had already fled from Pibor town on Friday, into the bush in fear of imminent attack. UNMISS has already deployed a battalion of its troops in Pibor town to protect the civilians, in addition to the SPLA forces on the ground.

Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, told the BBC that the UN was "very concerned by the scale this", adding that UNMISS was reinforcing its troops in the area to help the SPLA defend civilians.

"The UN is facing enormous logistical challenges - we still have no military aircraft, only civilian helicopters," the BBC quoted her as saying.

On Friday, the Vice President, Machar, who is still in the affected Murle area of Likwangole, continued to try to stop the youth from moving further into Murle land.

On Friday he spoke on the phone with the leader of the Lou-Nuer youth, Bor Doang, who assured the Vice President that he would order his group to stop advancing toward Pibor town and return back to Lou-Nuer.

However it is not yet clear whether or not the youth leader will keep his word, although the expected attack on Pibor town did not occur as feared on Friday.

(ST)