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Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

Unity state condemns women’s abduction in cattle raid

By Bonifacio Taban Kuich

April, 4, 2013 (BENTIU) – Eight women were abducted and over 170 head of cattle stolen on Monday from South Sudan’s Unity state by a group of raiders allegedly from neighbouring Lakes state.

The women were taken while searching for food along the river side, with communities in Unity state’s Payinjiar county facing severe hunger as a result of last year’s poor harvest.

Payinjiar was among the worst affected counties during heavy floods last June which washed away crops.

Authorities in Payinjiar county have confirmed 174 head of cattle were raided on Easter Monday by unknown bandits allegedly from Rumbek Central county.

Local residents said the women fishing and gathering water lilies when they were seized by raiders.

Simon Chuol Biel, an area commissioner of Payinjiar, explained to Sudan Tribune how the women were abducted in Pachienjok payam [district].

“The women actually went to the river side because in Payinjiar last year no-one [could] cultivate [the land]. Actually there is poverty in our county because of the flooding”, he said.

“I think women always went to the river side so that they can look for water lily and other things in the river. Some of them went for fishing; they were not actually in the cattle camp; they were just at the river side looking for different things”, Biel added.

He says it is the first time raiders operating in Lakes and Unity states have abducted people during an attack since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 that ended the bitter civil war between north and South.

The abductions have surprised local authorities, who say it is out of character for raiders to kidnap people.

“I was told yesterday actually that the raiders were from Rumbek centre and they raided 174 herds of cattle and I was told also they took eight women with them which is the new thing for us actually,” Biel said.

“When raiders come to our county always they don’t touch anything apart from cattle, but it was my big surprise when I heard that they took eight women with them”, the commissioner added.

Meanwhile, Lake state authorities on Wednesday accused youths from Payinjiar county of launching a fresh attack on Thou cattle camp in Rumbek Central.

According to Abraham Mayen Kuc, the commissioner of Rumbek Central county, 10 people from Lakes state were killed in the attack, including a 28-year-old woman.

The commissioner claims 21 people believed to be raiders from Unity state were also found dead after clashes with security forces in Thou cattle camp.

Biel, however, dismissed the claims, saying the youths were only interested in reclaiming their raided cattle and had no intention of carrying out a revenge attack on the camp.

He was not able to say how many youths had been involved in the incident, adding that investigations by the county executive remained ongoing.

South Sudan’s poor transport infrastructure has made it increasingly difficult for police forces patrolling in border areas to control the practice of cattle raiding, which continues to cause instability in the new nation.

Authorities say urgent road upgrades are needed to improve accessibility to remote areas and prevent the reoccurrence of raids.

The Payinjiar county commissioner has called on his counterpart in Lakes state to act quickly to investigate the whereabouts of the abducted women and stolen cattle and to negotiate their safe return.

(ST)