More than 70 killed in weekend violence in South Sudan

REPORTING FROM JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- South Sudan, the world's newest nation, saw more than 70 people killed over the weekend in an inter-communal attack, the government reported Monday, following on recent violence that killed hundreds of people, including women and children.

Thousands of cattle were stolen in the Saturday clashes.

The latest violence in Warrap state underscores the fragility of the new nation, which lacks sufficient security forces to prevent attacks between communities in a vast nation with few roads, poor education and little development.

Interior Minister Alison Manani Magaya said Monday that about 70 people were killed when a  Nuer tribe from neighboring Unity state attacked a Dinka community, the Associated Press reported.

The nearest police station was three hours' walk from the village where the attacks took place, according to the Paris-based Sudan Tribune. The violence saw attacks on the Luac Jang clan of the Dinka tribe in Tonj East County, according to officials from the region cited in the reports.

The violence is not directly related to the inter-communal massacres that took place in December and January in Jonglei state between the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes. But like the violence in Jonglei, cattle rustling attacks and massacres have been going on for many years.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan last July after a referendum overwhelmingly backed independence, but the new nation faces multiple challenges, including tensions with Sudan over fees to transit South Sudan oil through Sudanese pipelines.

African Union talks over the weekend failed to reach a deal to settle the oil dispute. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday that tensions between the two nations threatened the peace.

South Sudan faces a testing future, with only about a quarter of the population and 12% of women literate. Inter-tribal feuds that have simmered for decades have broken out in recent months, a situation complicated because the decades-long civil war that ended in 2005 left the nation awash with weapons.

But Madot Dut Deng, speaker of the Warrap state legislature, told the Sudan Tribune that the people in Tonj East county were disarmed last year and couldn't defend themselves. He said poor roads made it difficult for the police or army to move in quickly to prevent attacks.

After independence in July, both sides in the long-running tribal feud were to disarm simultaneously as the first step to a peace deal, but the process broke down.

Magaya, the interior minister, accused Sudan of arming the attackers. Sudanese military spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad denied the allegations, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We don't have any connection with this," he said. "We never support any armed opposition in South Sudan or any place," he said.

South Sudan and Sudan regularly accuse each other of arming groups to carry our destabilizing attacks in each other's territory, and both deny the accusations.

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-- Robyn Dixon

 

 
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