18 February 2013

Sudan: Lou-Nuer Chiefs Criticise Juba for Not Protecting Civilians

Juba — Chiefs from the Lou-Nuer community of Walgak payam in Akobo county, South Sudan's Jonglei have criticised the government for not doing enough to protect their vulnerable disarmed populations.

A group of uniformed rebels loyal to David Yauyau, joined with suspected armed Murle youth, intercepted and killed 104 civilians, mostly women and children, while they were on their seasonal migration to water sources north of Akobo county.

14 soldiers belonging to the South Sudanese army (SPLA) also died in the attack while trying to repel the attackers.

Many more civilians were also wounded in the surprise attack and thousands were displaced, some across the neighbouring Upper Nile state, prompting fears of humanitarian disaster in the area.

On Sunday, South Sudan's Vice-President Riek Machar led a high-level security and humanitarian delegation to the scene of the attack where they paid their condolences to the bereaved families and reassured the affected populations of the government's commitment to disarm all the civil populations in the state.

The community has been disarmed many times and successfully, they said, but left vulnerable to the repeated attacks by the heavily armed roaming neighbouring youth of Murle community.

The first attempt to disarm another section of the Lou-Nuer in Uror County in 2006 was bloody and resulted in to the loss of more than 500 people on both sides.

During the visit of the Vice-President to Walgak, chiefs and elders in the area expressed anger over what they said was government's negligence, which left them vulnerable to the "defying" armed Murle community and their home grown rebels of Yauyau.

"We listened to the government and accepted disarmament but we unfortunately fall victim to the defying Murle community which has refused to disarm," an elder told the Vice-President.

Last year Machar thwarted an organized revenge attack on Murle by 12,000 heavily armed youth of Lou-Nuer who accused the government of failure to disarm the neighbouring tribe.

The youth, who then acquired new guns from another Jonglei's rebel group under the command of late George Athor, publicly revealed that their mission was to capture the whole Pibor County, home of Murle, and impose their authority over the county for three months to disarm them by force on behalf of the government.

They were however persuaded by the Vice-President to return to Lou-Nuer land where they faced disarmament with assurances that the government would disarm the neighboring Murle as well.

15,000 SPLA and police forces have been deployed in Jonglei for the last one year to disarm all communities in the state. The forces registered major successes in disarming other communities, but continue to face resistance in Murle areas.

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