South Sudan

Pibor County Commissioner backs buffer zones between warring communities

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19 January 2012 - Pibor County Commissioner Joshua Kony today called for the creation of buffer zones along tribal borders in the strife-torn state of Jonglei to facilitate more effective monitoring of the movements of armed groups.

The county commissioner said that the establishment of such buffer zones separating the heartlands of the Murle, Lou Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups should be accompanied by the deployment of soldiers in those areas to deter reprisal attacks.

The proposal was echoed by James Jok Keya of the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, who also urged youths in Jonglei to “remove tribalism in their hearts” in order to promote reconciliation among the state’s warring communities.

Thousands of Lou Nuer youths marched into Pibor County in December and carried out a series of raids against the towns of Pibor and Likuangole and numerous villages that killed dozens and perhaps hundreds of Murle residents and displaced thousands more.

Armed groups of suspected Murle tribesmen have subsequently staged a series of retaliatory attacks this month against Lou Nuer and Dinka communities.

“I want to tell the youth that this is no time for fighting,” said Mr. Kony. “This is time for peace.”

The county commissioner thanked UNMISS for evacuating dozens of wounded civilians for medical treatment in the national capital of Juba.

He also credited the mission for saving the life of a girl who was found alive in the bush while still clinging to the back of her deceased mother a week after she had died.

While cattle theft has traditionally been the main cause of inter-communal fighting in much of South Sudan, the Pibor County commissioner said the recent violence has targeted civilians not usually associated with rustling. “Today the fighting has been confused,” said Mr. Kony. “We now see women and children being killed.”

In the aftermath of last month’s violence in the Murle heartland, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has registered about 50,000 people in four Pibor County townships and distributed emergency food rations to victims.

“We are overwhelmed by the number of new arrivals for registration each day,” said WFP field monitor Gabriel Ajak.

Intended to last 15 days, an individual ration consists of 500 grams of cereals, 50 grams of beans, 30 grams of vegetable oil and 5 grams of salt.