Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bloody day in Sudan’s Jonglei, U.N. chief condemns violence

By Philip Thon Aleu

August 4, 2009 (BOR TOWN) — An unknown number of armed tribesmen from the Murle ethnic group raided a Lou Nuer village near Okobo country in Jonglei state over the weekend killing over 180 people and injuring some 31 others.


A Murle gunman moves with his rifle in a village. (Photo Source: Bor Globe)

The dawn raid on Lou territory comes months after bloody fighting broke out last February between the two tribes when some 753 people (300 Lou Nuer and 453 Murle) were killed in a revenge assault carried by the Lou Nuer against the Murle.

Again in April, Murle attacked Akobo killing over 300 people.

Akobo Commissioner Goi Jooyul Yol, appearing visibly shaken at a press conference in Bor Town on Monday morning, detailed that 100 women, 50 children and 11 SPLA soldiers are among the dead in Akobo.

"Of the 29 wounded, 3 are SPLA and the rest are civilians," he said.

"Dozens of children and women are still missing and most are believed to be either killed or abducted – by the attackers," he said adding that a "thorough" search by local authorities is underway, he added.

This evening, the commissioner revised his figures saying that the death toll has reached 185 with some 31 people injured. He further said that reports are still arriving.

Clashes between Murle and Nuer ethnic groups have become recurring this year. The UN mission in Sudan (UNMIS) last May deployed 120 military personnel in Akobo and Pibor to help Jonglei authorities to stabilize the situation.

The UN forces pulled out last week "failing short to making meaningful impact" there, the County leader said. SPLA has too, failed to control the situation.

Akobo Commissioner Jooyul called for the "immediate disarmament" of all communities in Jonglei "and particularly the Murle before next dry season in order to save lives."

"The people of Akobo are trying to survive by all means," the commissioner said. He complained that the food airlifted to Akobo by UN is insufficient and a fight for living in that "hostile environment" proved dangerous, the commissioner added.

The County leader calls for humanitarian assistance "without hindrance as the only viable solution to Akobo misery."

Earlier this year following the February and April violence outbreaks, some South Sudan officials claimed that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) is behind the increasing of tribal fighting. Some have also accused the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) of supplying weapons to the heavily armed Murle.

However, UNMIS Coordinator for Southern Sudan, David Gressly, last July stressed that cattle rustling, that he described as "traditional activity" in southern Sudan, could cause similar kinds of violence.

He also said the increasing violence in the region can be explained by the "lack of institutions of police, of courts, prisons, etc. and of the rule of law." "It is also due to a lack of infrastructure" he further added.

SHOOTING IN BOR TOWN

Akobo’s incident collided with Bor Town shooting where a mother was killed and her surviving 2 children abducted. In addition, two other children were abducted on Monday in Hai Machuor, a Bor town suburb near John Garang Institute where Sunday’s raiding occurred.

The attackers, for both cases, are believed to one of the groups of Murle tribesmen that attacked Lony village on July 29 and reportedly killing a couple and abducting a child.

UN CONDEMNATION

In New York the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon said noting "with extreme concern" the 2 August attack in Akobo, and condemned the reported killing of civilian and SPLA soldiers.

Further, he has directed the UNMIS to "extend all possible assistance to those affected by this heinous act and work with local authorities to restore calm."

The Secretary General called upon the Government of Southern Sudan to bring to justice those responsible for these events and take the necessary measures to protect civilians across Southern Sudan.

(ST)
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