Home | News    Monday 9 January 2012

UPDATED: Murle revenge attack on Luo-Nuer ’kills 23’ in Jonglei’s Akobo County

  • Adds revised death toll from 60 to 23.
  • Adds number of injured and estimate for cattle raided.

January 8, 2012 (BOR) – Conflict between the Murle and Luo Nuer tribes in South Sudan’s Jonglei State continued on Sunday with the Murle accused of carrying out a revenge attack on Akobo County.

Nuer raiders set fire to houses and took cattle during the attack on Pibor County. (BBC)

The fighting has killed as many as 23 including 4 men and 19 are women and children, the Akobo Commissioner Goi Joyol said on Monday. A Murle man is said to be among the dead.

On Sunday Commissioner Joyol told Sudan Tribune that 60 had died. However, the following day when people returned after fleeing over night he revised the figure to 23. This figure has not been verified independently.

Seven people were injured and "thousands" of cattle have been looted, Joyol said.

The attack on Luo Nuer territory appears to be response to a Luo Nuer offensive into Murle territory in Pibor County that displaced up to 100,000 and killed many.

Murle displaced people sit under a tree guarded by the SPLA in Pibor County, Jonglei, South Sudan. Jan. 6, 2012 (ST)

The Pibor County Commissioner, Joshua Konyi, estimates that over 3,000 people were killed in the assault which lasted for two weeks from 23 December until early January, when the army deployed thousands of extra troops to the area.

From June 2011 until the December violent counter attacks and cattle raids between the two groups had killed 1,000. The Pibor Commissioner says over 80,000 cattle were stolen in the latest raid. Cattle are a sign of status and used to pay bride price in South Sudan.

South Sudanese citizens are still highly armed as a hangover from decades of conflict and various rebellions in the region.

A Murle woman with two of her children on her back returns to Pibor after fleeing the town. Pibor County, Jonglei, South Sudan. Jan. 6, 2012 (ST)

Disarming civilians and resolving local conflicts over resources are among the many challenges that South Sudan faces after it seceded from north Sudan in July 2011 as part of 2005 peace deal.

A resident of Akobo town told Sudan Tribune by phone that the attackers are advancing toward the county headquarters and are setting houses on fire.

South Sudan Red Cross director in Jonglei state, David Gai, said his volunteers are helping the wounded people.


Humanitarian agencies are mounting a major emergency operation in Jonglei state with the South Sudanese government declaring it a disaster zone.

Displaced Murle citizens return to Pibor town after the Luo Nuer offensive. Pibor County, Jonglei, South Sudan. Jan. 6, 2012 (ST)

Humanitarian agencies estimate that up to 100,000 people have been displaced by the violence. Most of those who need assistance have been hiding in the bush for up to two weeks, in many cases without food, clean water or shelter.

Preliminary results of assessments in hard-hit areas indicate that the most urgent needs include high-nutritional food, clean water, health care and shelter.

The United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Lise Grande, said in a statement on Saturday that the "emergency operation is going to be one of the most complex and expensive in South Sudan since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005. With the exception of Boma, the areas we need to access are extremely remote and can only be reached by air".

The most recent spike in inter-communal violence has compounded an already difficult humanitarian situation in South Sudan. In 2011 more than 350,000 people had been displaced by rebellions against the government, cattle raids and revenge attacks, according to reports by local authorities and assessment teams.

On Tuesday Grande said the death toll could be anywhere from dozens to hundreds.

Thousands have been displaced in fighting between the Nuer and Murle (BBC)

The UN’s World Food Program says it has delivered emergency rations to feed 1,000 people in Pibor for two weeks, and expects to reach 7,000 more people in the coming days. It has also distributed food packages for 2,000 internally displaced people at Boma.

On Thursday, Herve Ladsous, the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, called the situation in Jonglei "a very serious crisis".

"I think the problem we face in this particular region of Jonglei state is one of access, because there are no roads and we have insufficient helicopters," he told reporters following his address to the Security Council. He said the UN had reinforced its staff in the area and that the South Sudanese government should try to do the same.


Data on Jonglei clashes provided by Pibor County commissioner clashes on Jan 6. 2012 (ST)