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South Sudan: Tribal Clashes Leave Hundreds Dead

The joy and excitement that the people of Jonglei state had when South Sudan declared its independence weeks ago have been short lived after deadly clashes between the Murle and Lou Nuer broke out in the early hours of 18 August 18, 2011.

This attack has claimed the highest number of lives than any other cattle raid in South Sudan. Hundreds were reported dead by the United Nations, tens of thousands displaced and women and children were abducted. It was reported that 38,000 heads of cattle were raided in a single incident.

The attack is the latest in series of encounters between the two communities. In June 2011, an armed group from Uror County (Lou Nuer) was accused of a deadly attack on the Murle of Pibor County, killing hundreds and displacing thousands.

Worrying trend of attacks

These attacks started as minor traditional cattle raids and counter-raids between the Lou Nuer and Murle existing for many decades, but the scale and magnitude of the clashes is changing drastically with the introduction of automatic weapons.

When I visited Pibor County last month, the county commissioner told me about the June Lou Nuer attack on the Murle. “The attack was well coordinated, and the attackers were well armed, equipped with satellites phones and dressed in uniforms,”  he said.

What happened last week is suspected to be a revenge of the June raid. This raises fears that these revenge attacks will continue, a disheartening reality for a young nation still recovering from 21 years of conflict. 

With food stocks and cattle looted, hunger is a real problem. Many people have only emergency food distributions to rely on in the near future.

It is very worrying to see four payams (districts) burnt to ashes, leaving only the mud walls standing.

Our response 

On Monday, 22 August, Save the Children joined an emergency assessment of seven villages in Uror County that were badly affected by the fighting, to get an understanding of the humanitarian situation on the ground, and recommend intervention. The mission comprised of authorities from the Government of South Sudan, the UN and other humanitarian organizations.

As over 100 children were separated, Save the Children is now starting the process of Family Tracing and Reintegration (FTR) for the unaccompanied minors to be reunited with their families.

Save the Children is also currently assessing our non-food item stocks for distribution to the affected families. These items may include blankets, plastic sheeting, kitchen utensils, mosquito nets and jerry cans.

As witness to the land mark independence celebrations, South Sudanese thought the fighting was finally over. Now is the time to begin rebuilding our once war ravaged country, but what is happening in Jonglei State is major setback to this aspiration.

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