January 1, 2012 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has ordered the deployment of more soldiers and 2,000 police to Pibor county in Jonglei state in a belated attempt to stop tribal fighting in the area.
SPLA soldiers parade (file/ Reuters) Over the last week the 6,000 members of the Lou-Nuer ethnic group moved into Murle territory setting fire to towns and raiding cattle, as an act of revenge for an attack in August.
Having captured the strategic town of district of Linkwangole, the Luo-Nuer advanced on Pibor the county headquarters on New Year’s Eve. At least 20,000 people have been displaced by the attacks, according to the UN.
The group’s declared aim is to capture all Murle towns and villages, disarm the population and recover over 180 Luo-Nuer children they claim were abducted by the Murle in August.
Over 1,000 people have been killed in cattle raiding and fighting between the two tribes this year, including around 700 by the Murle’s August raid. The Murle say hundreds were killed when they were attacked in June.
On Saturday the Luo-Nuer group overran the Pibor town in defiance of the efforts by the Vice President, Riek Machar, and other leading politicians from who tried to convince them to withdraw to their territory.
There are reports that the Luo-Nuer have pulled out of Pibor but are moving south, further into Murle territory, where thousands of civilians have already been displaced to by the conflict.
On Sunday, the Lou-Nuer youth were reported to have stationed a sizable group in a village called Lokurnyang, about two kilometers east of the Pibor town.
There are unconfirmed reports of clashes in an area called Longachot, a few kilometers south of Pibor town, where thousands of civilians had fled on Saturday.
Local sources have told Sudan Tribune that the Lou-Nuer youth had divided themselves into three main groups moving southwards to the areas of Gumruk, Partet and Lokila.
CURFEW IN JUBA & STATE OF EMERGENCY IN JONGLEI
On Saturday the Vice President, Riek Machar, briefed President Kiir on the escalating situation in Jonglei, prompting the deployment of additional SPLA forces to the area.
After Kiir returned from his home village of Akon, Warrap State, where he went for Christmas holiday break, a nighttime curfew was declared in Juba.
Heavily armed police and army personal were stationed across the capital on Saturday and Sunday, especially along roads with government buildings.
The unannounced curfew runs from 8pm until 6am.
Machar said Sunday he suspected that some people in South Sudan’s capital Juba and Jonglei’s main town, Bor, might be encouraging the Lou-Nuer to continue the fighting and ignore his efforts to stop the fighting.
He appealed to those who may be communicating with the group to instead convince them to stop the violence and return to their territory in order to avoid confrontation with the soon-to-be-deployed police and SPLA forces.
President Salva Kiir on Sunday also announced that a ’State of Emergency’ will soon be declared in Jonglei state in order to effectively curb the ongoing insecurity situation. He confirmed that he has ordered "large forces" from both the SPLA and the Police and are already on the move into Pibor county to stop the fighting.
Lise Grand, the UN Resident Coordinator in South Sudan today told the BBC that the Lou-Nuer youth have withdrawn from Pibor town and were moving southeast wards chasing the Murle civilians who evacuated the town earlier on Saturday. She said there were some civilian casualties from the Saturday attack inside the town.
Other sources say the Lou-Nuer youth lost interest in Pibor town and decided to abandon it because they did not find civilians they were looking for in the town.