Sudan/South Sudan: Ethnic violence erupts in Jonglei; border states remain insecure

Sudan/South Sudan: Ethnic violence erupts in Jonglei; border states remain insecure

Following the eruption of ethnic violence between the Lou Nuer and Murle groups that resulted in the displacement of 50,000 civilians, the South Sudanese state of Jonglei was declared a humanitarian disaster by the South Sudanese Council of Ministers in its 4 January emergency meeting on the situation. Media reports stated that 3,000 civilians, predominantly women and children, were killed in the recent surge of violence which, if confirmed by the UN, would constitute the deadliest clashes in South Sudan in recent months. As Doctors without Borders (MSF) noted in its 3 January press release, the thousands who have fl ed are at great risk as they no longer have access to humanitarian or medical aid. MSF’s facilities in Pibor were targeted in attacks as well, leaving those civilians who remained in the village without access to medical supplies. UN Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Lise Grande, stated on 4 January that while internally displaced persons (IDPs) had begun to return to Pibor, she expressed concern for their condition.
UN officials responded on 30 December by deploying peacekeepers from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to Pibor. As of 5 January, UNMISS spokesperson, Kouider Zerrouk, reported that the Lou Nuer armed youth appeared to be returning to their original locations, but that the UN mission would continue to monitor the situation to insure the safety of civilians. The UN is mounting a “massive emergency support program” to assist civilians who fled as noted on 3 January by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs OCHA).
Meanwhile, over 300,000 people remain displaced or affected by fighting between the Sudanese army and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) rebels in the states of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, expressed concern on 5 January for the food situation in the affected region, stating that she received alarming reports of malnutrition in areas controlled by SPLM-North. OCHA noted on 3 January that populations remain cut off from humanitarian aid as relief agencies have restricted access in regions of South Kordofan due to increased insecurity.
1. Urgent measures needed to protect all ethnic groups after recent South Sudan attacks
Minority Rights Group
5 January 2012

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) condemns the recent attacks between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities in Pibor, Jonglei state, South Sudan, and calls on the government to take immediate steps to protect civilians from all ethnic groups.

In the long term, the government must also address the root causes of violence among minority communities through political representation, disarmament and equitable distribution of natural resources.

‘Competition between ethnic groups over scarce resources has escalated in South Sudan. At the same time there is a security vacuum, leading to the formation of militia groups and a breakdown of traditional structures of authority,’ says Chris Chapman, MRG’s Head of Conflict Prevention.

‘This will continue to threaten the stability of the new nation, unless the government acts quickly to ensure security, inclusive representation for all communities, and equitable access to land and natural resources,’ he added.

Last weekend’s clashes between two South Sudanese ethnic groups; the Lou Nuer and the Murle, have sparked a humanitarian crisis, with over 150 killed and the displacement of thousands. Eyewitness accounts report that many of the victims are women and children.

Although not new, attacks between the Lou Nuer and Murle and other related inter-ethnic conflicts among minority groups like the Anyuak, Jie and Kachipo now threaten the stability of the new South Sudan.

To put that assertion into perspective, the December 2011 Boma Development Initiative (BDI) and MRG briefing, Community Perspectives on the Lou Nuer and Murle conflict in South Sudan, quotes Jonglei Governor Hussein Maar Nyout, who told a governors’ forum in Juba in November that over 3,000 people had been killed in his state in 2011.

Chapman explains, ‘The attacks, which on the face of it appear to be cattle raids, have deeper underlying causes related to poverty, competition for scarce resources, the ubiquity of small arms left over from a decades-long war and marginalization of ethnic minorities. In addition, the conflict between the Lou Nuer and Murle is taking on a dynamic of repeated revenge attacks, highlighting the need for the government to take urgent action to protect innocent civilians.’

According to MRG’s 2011 research, some minority groups feel that their interests are not being represented within the South Sudanese political system, and that resources have been diverted to more populous ethnic groups, rendering them poorer with more precarious access to land and natural resources than other communities. (…)
See a related report from MRG, Land, livelihoods and identities: Inter-community conflicts in East Africa.
See full press release.
2. South Sudan: Thousands of Civilians Flee for Their Lives
Doctors Without Borders
3 January 2012
(…) Renewed intercommunal violence in Jonglei State, South Sudan, has forced thousands of families to flee into the bush, where they have no access to assistance, including medical care.
Two healthcare facilities operated by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) were targeted in attacks in Jonglei, leaving much-needed medical activities temporarily suspended in Pibor County.
“Thousands of people in Lekongole and Pibor fled in the last week and are now hiding in the bush, frightened for their lives,” said Parthesarathy Rajendran, MSF head of mission in South Sudan. “They fled in haste and have no food or water, some of them doubtless with wounds. Now they are hiding on their own, beyond the reach of humanitarian assistance.”
The village of Lekongole was razed to the ground and an MSF team that assessed the situation in Pibor on December 28 described it as a ghost town. Virtually everyone fled into the surrounding countryside. While people are hidden in the bush, they cannot be reached, meaning they cannot have wounds cleaned and dressed, be treated for diseases, or access general healthcare.
During the violence, two of MSF’s medical facilities were looted and damaged: the clinic in the village of Lekongole on December 27 and the small hospital in the town of Pibor on December 31. A third MSF clinic in the nearby village of Gumuruk has apparently not been affected. The three medical facilities are the only healthcare options for the 160,000 people in Pibor County. The nearest alternative medical facility is more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) away.
MSF condemned the targeting of neutral and impartial medical facilities. (…)
(…) These most recent attacks follow the August 2011 looting and burning of MSF medical facilities in Pieri, further north in Jonglei State. MSF subsequently treated 157 wounded people, mostly women and children. (…)
7-I-12, ICRtoP