Rumbek — Fighting in Lakes State's Rumbek Central County has left 25 people dead and 30 people with gunshot wounds, in clashes that began earlier this week over grazing areas between rival cattle herding groups, authorities said Friday.
At least two South Sudanese soldiers and two policemen were killed while attempting to separate the groups during the gun battle, the state Minister of Information and Communication, Charlies Badiri Mayen told Sudan Tribune.
The Amothnhom and Panyon sections of the Dinka ethnic group graze their cattle on a vast fertile territory - known as the toch - as well as sharing a common cattle camp with Rumbek East County.
The revenge attacks on Friday in Abarkou village follow clashes which began on Wednesday, 15 kilometres northeast of Rumbek town in an area between Marial-Bek and Ghun cattle camps.
Lakes State's council of ministers held an emergency security meeting on Friday to discuss how to respond to the violence. The state cabinet has ordered the army and police to start a fresh attempt to disarm the civilian population and arrest those responsible on both sides of the conflict, according to Mayen.
The government also resolved to arrest anyone found sitting under a tree, which has been made illegal in Lakes State to discourage idleness and encourage people to take up farming, which is relatively uncommon in the culture of some of South Sudan's cattle-dominated groups.
The Commissioner of Rumbek Central County, Abraham Mayen Kuc and his counterpart in Rumbek East County, Mayen Kuc Adhil have been instructed to conduct an immediate investigation to arrest those suspected of taking part in the violence.
"We must disarm them by all cost" Minister Mayen told Sudan Tribune on Friday, adding that the pastoralist groups would be disarmed by force if they did not hand over their weapons peacefully.
"We are very tired of those pastoralists fighting themselves without objective" he said.
Lakes State Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agency Benjamin Makuer Mabor, 26 June 2012 (ST)
Lakes State government has closed all markets and public places and extra soldiers and policemen have been deployed inside Rumbek town, with more well equipped police sent to the area of the clashes to try and prevent further conflict.
The initial fighting on Wednesday killed 10 people, leaving further 13 injured, according to Lakes State's Minister of Local Government and Law and Enforcement, Benjamin Makuer Mabor.
The roots of the feud dates back to November last year when young men from the Panyon and Amothnhon communities of the Dinka ethnic group are alleged to have exchanged verbal insults at a cattle camp, 34km north-east of the state capital, Rumbek.
The November clash killed 12 people and wounded 23, Mabor told Sudan Tribune last year.