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[Dehai-WN] Mail & Guardian Online: Over 3 000 killed in South Sudan violence

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Mon, 9 Jan 2012 22:46:20 +0100

Over 3 000 killed in South Sudan violence

 JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN - Jan 06 2012 14:45

Over 3 000 people were killed in South Sudan in brutal massacres last week
in an explosion of ethnic violence that forced tens of thousands to flee, a
top local official said on Friday.

"There have been mass killings, a massacre," said Joshua Konyi, commissioner
for Pibor county in Jonglei state.

"We have been out counting the bodies and we calculate so far that 2 182
women and children were killed and 959 men died."

United Nations and South Sudanese army officials have yet to confirm the
death tolls and the claims from the remote region could not be independently

If confirmed, the killings of 3 141 people would be the worst outbreak of
ethnic violence ever seen in the fledgling nation, which split from Sudan in

A column of some 6 000 rampaging armed youths from the Lou Nuer tribe last
week marched on the remote town of Pibor, home to the rival Murle people,
whom they blame for abductions and cattle raiding and have vowed to

The Lou Nuer gunmen attacked Pibor at the weekend, torching huts and looting
a hospital and only withdrew after government troops opened fire.

'Disaster area'

Over 1 000 children are missing, feared abducted, while tens of thousands of
cows were stolen, added Konyi, who is himself an ethnic Murle.

The UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Lise Grande, said earlier
this week that she feared "tens, perhaps hundreds" could have died.

"Yes, there have been casualties, but we don't have the details and can't at
present confirm what the commissioner reports," said Jonglei state
information minister Isaac Ajiba.

"We are awaiting reports from our [military] forces on the ground," said
South Sudan army spokesperson Philip Aguer. "For the assessment to be
credible they must have gone into the villages to count all the bodies."

South Sudan has declared Jonglei state a national "disaster area" according
to the official government website, while the UN has warned a "massive
emergency operation" is needed to help those uprooted by the violence.

Both ethnic groups must "return all the abducted women and children of both
sides and reunite them with their communities," the government added.

Lou Nuer fighters are now returning home after the army and UN peacekeepers
beefed up reinforcements in Pibor, while the World Food Programme (WFP) has
flown in emergency rations to support the thousands displaced.


A statement from a group calling itself the "Nuer White Army" said their
attacks against the Murle had been "successful" and warned of more assaults
if the Murle retaliate.

"If they did that, we will launch surprise attacks which will lead to more
bloodshed and displacements," it added, warning the government "any attempt
to disarm the Nuer White Army will lead to catastrophe."

Médecins Sans Frontières, the main health care provider for the estimated
160 000 people in Pibor county, has temporarily suspended its operations
after the clashes forced them to evacuate staff.

Newly independent South Sudan was left in ruins by decades of war with
northern Sudanese forces, who fuelled conflict by backing proxy militia
forces across the south, often exacerbating historical enmities between
rival groups.

Ethnic violence, cattle raids and reprisal attacks in the vast eastern state
left over 1 100 people dead and forced some 63 000 from their homes last
year, according to UN reports based on local authorities and assessment

The deaths include violence last August, when at least 600 people were
killed and up to 985 people injured after Murle gunmen attacked Lou Nuer
villages in Jonglei.



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