23 January 2013

Sudan: Official Urges Lakes State to Cease Cattle Raids

Juba — An official from South Sudan's Western Bahr el Ghazal state on Wednesday expressed concerns about the increasing level of violence in neighbouring Lake state, urging its authorities and pastoral communities to cease cattle raiding practices.

"Western Bahr el Ghazal was actually one of the most peaceful states in South Sudan. There have never been reports of tribal conflict. No reports of cattle raiding because most of our people do not keep cattle, but the area has in [the] recent past started experiencing cattle raids from neighbouring communities in Lakes state," Effesio Kon Uguak, a former deputy governor, told Sudan Tribune.

He cited a recent incident, in which a group of armed civilians reportedly crossed into Mapel area in Western Bahr el Ghazal, killing people and seizing an unspecified number of cattle.

At least six people died and two others were injured in the attack, he said, which was allegedly carried out by a well-armed group with "modern" weapons.

"They [attackers] were carrying automatic Kalashnikov rifles (AKM) and [a] number of hand held grenades. They were having all these as if they were going to attack an enemy garrison," said Uguak, now a peace and reconciliation advisor to the state government.

During the interview, the official further reiterated the state government's support for peaceful coexistence with neighbouring communities in order to promote "social ties and harmony."

However, he also called upon the Lake state government to take responsibility for the issue and compensate those who lost lives and properties during of the attack in Mapel.

South Sudan's president Salva Kiir on Monday issued a decree relieving Lakes state governor Chol Tong Mayay from his post, without giving a reason for his decision to remove the democratically elected official.

Cattle raiding remains an enormous challenge facing the new nation, with citizens and critics accusing the south-ruling party (SPLM) government of not doing enough to control tribal feuds, including cattle raids, which have claimed the lives of many innocent civilians.

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