Bentiu — A group of bandits believed to be from neighboring Warrap state attacked Unity state's Mayiandit County on Sunday night taking 100,000 head of cattle, a local leader told Sudan Tribune.
The 200 or so heavily armed bandits attacked three payams districts in Mayiandit according to the local chief Michael Lony Phat of Dablual payam.
The chief said the bandits wore the uniform of Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) and carried arms including of rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), machine guns and AK47's. The amount of ammunition they had could not have been "afforded by an individual person", said Phat.
Sudan Tribune visited the scene of the raid and found around 30 people had been buried in mass graves, including 13 women, 8 children and 9 men. Locals say 13 people were seriously injured and about 49 people were still missing.
Gatdit Jah Deng Mayiandit County commissioner described the attack as a disaster because innocent women and children were killed adding it may be a crime against humanity.
He called for calm from the victims and to avoid revenge attacks.
"I know it would not be easy to forgive those who killed your brother and sisters, but as we belong to part of the Republic of South Sudan, we need both governments of Unity and Warrap State to join hands in recovering back the taken herds of cattle", said Deng.
Deng added that the police had managed to recover 600 head of cattle, but due to low numbers in their ranks they had been resisted by the gangs who outnumbered them.
Koach Puok Liah Thong a local resident from Thor Buma, who lost around 200 cows was angry at the commissioner for allowing his community to be disarmed, leaving them vulnerable to attack.
Gatdit Jah Deng Mayiandit county commissioner speaks to Sudan Tribune in in Dablual payam [district] after the cattle raids. Sept. 11 2011 (ST)
After decades of civil war South Sudan is saturated with small arms, which are often used in cattle raids, banditry and revenge attacks between rival groups. Attempts by South Sudan's government to disarm civilians has been controversial as often groups are exposed to raids from neighbours who have not been disarmed for political or other reasons.
South Sudan became independent in July as part of a 2005 peace with North . Insecurity is one of the major issues facing the world's youngest country. When fully staffed the United Nations Mission in South Sudan will have up to 7,000 peacekeepers, 900 international police, as well as civilian staff.
"What happens here is really a terrible disaster", Thong said.
"We blame the government of South Sudan about this case, we had been disarmed properly because we had [...] hope [in the] new country of the Republic of South Sudan."
He said that he would be forced to sell his cows and look to but weapons from North Sudan. "No one can blame us," he said "because these are the tribes of the president that launch attack, they are not disarm[ed].
Salva Kiir, South Sudan's president hails from Warrap state. Disarmament campaigns are often considered to be biased by some ethnic groups.
"We are seriously condemning the government and if they don't find a solution [...] we [will] take arms and fight these tribe[s] in [a] short time", said Thong.
Nyatiek Yiey Weal escaping with her young daughter after being shot by cattle rustlers in Thor, Mayiandit County, South Sudan. Sept. 11, 2011 (ST)
Nyatiek Yiey Weal a victim of the attack said they were at home when a group of men dressed in militarily uniform came in a began to shot at her and her children. Weal was shot twice in her right chest.
"Our appeal to the government is, we need a good protection from culprits and gangs, so for us to become a free citizen, the war took the South Sudan 21 years struggle to be new independent state earlier this year on July 9, we fail to understand why we are being killed like non-citizens", said Weal.
Dablual chief Phat called upon the governments of Unity and Warrap State to cooperate with each other in terms of deploying more troops at the border to bring peace to the area.
Phat said that what happens in Mayiandit was a human rights violation. He strongly calls for peaceful resolutions on these cattle rustling within the South Sudan.