January 2012 – Hundreds of displaced residents from Jonglei State’s Pibor County have begun returning to their villages, according to reports from a joint UN humanitarian assessment mission that visited the area today.
Approximately 500 internally displaced persons from the Murle community, including 180 unaccompanied children, have come back to their areas of residence, and thousands more are expected to follow in the coming days.
The assessment team, which included representatives from UNMISS, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme, visited the unaccompanied children in Pibor Town.
According to Rev. Abraham Korok Kutura of Pibor, some of the babies and toddlers are now orphans. “The children you are seeing here, some of them, were found lying on the backs of their dead mothers in the bush,” he said. “They have spent three days in the bush with the bodies of their mothers.”
In late December 2011, thousands of youths from the Lou Nuer community launched attacks on Murle residents of Pibor County in retaliation for a devastating August 2011 Murle attack which left an estimated 600 Lou Nuer dead.
Thousands of Pibor County residents were displaced after fleeing the area. Agod Korok was separated from her children during a raid. “I have lost three children in the bush, when we were attacked in Bertet (village). I don’t know whether they are alive or dead,” Ms. Korok said. “I came here to look for them.”
Calm has been restored with the deployment of additional UN peacekeepers and the Government of South Sudan’s military and police personnel to the area. Humanitarian organisations have launched a massive emergency operation to provide immediate assistance to the displaced.
“We are in need of food because we have to survive. We don’t know about our other brothers whether they are still surviving in the bush or not. We need food to eat,” said Ms. Korok
As part of its Chapter VII mandate, UNMISS has reinforced its peacekeeping presence in key areas in Jonglei State and is conducting daily land and air patrols to deter further violence between the Murle and Lou Nuer communities.
In her end-of-year message last month, UNMISS head of mission Hilde F. Johnson said that the biggest threat hindering South Sudan’s development was ethnic division and inter-communal conflicts. She called on the people of South Sudan to replace ethnic conflict with unity.