South Sudan - Tribal Warfare 2009

In 2009, interethnic conflict in the Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Lakes states killed more than 2,000 people and displaced approximately 250,000 individuals. Intertribal and intercommunal clashes, particularly in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Lakes, and Warrab states, increased during 2009 and resulted in civilian deaths.

For example, between March 5 and 13, in Pibor County, Jonglei State, fighting between Luo Nuer and Murle tribes resulted in civilian deaths and displacement. The week-long fighting in Pibor in early March pitted thousands of Luo Nuer youth from three separate counties (unconfirmed estimates range from 2,000 to 10,000) against a largely unarmed Murle civilian population. Prior to the April 18 Akobo violence, UNMIS/Juba Civil Affairs began receiving unverified reports of an 8,000-strong armed "Murle Youth Militia" in Jonglei State.

The Lou Nuer reportedly attacked the Murle after Murle raids on Nuer cattle camps. The commissioner of Pibor County stated that more than 450 persons were killed, several hundred wounded, more than 1,000 persons displaced, and an unknown number of women and children abducted as a result of the fighting. The UN reported that 5,000 persons were displaced. GOSS President Salva Kiir denied the casualty rates were this high and cited only 52 deaths. On August 2, in Akobo County, Jonglei State, members of the Murle tribe attacked Lo Nuer villages, resulting in the deaths of 161 persons.

Lou-Nuer abduction of Murle children during raids was evidence of a new conflict dynamic in 2009. Historically, Nuer have not abducted children, as kidnapping is against their culture, according to a prominent member of the Lou-Nuer and Jikany ethnic groups. In contrast, Murle are notorious for a long history of abducting Dinka and Nuer children in the region.

President Kiir said that he believed "indisputably" that Khartoum was actively arming the Murle community in the aftermath of the March Pibor violence to "destabilize Southern Sudan" in advance of the elections and 2011 referendum (the Murle, fearing domination by the larger Nuer and Dinka, largely fought on the side of Khartoum in the decades-long Sudanese Civil War). While northern tampering through receptive southern proxies is always possible, this latest round of violence in Jonglei appeared to be reprisal-based ethnic violence, which threatens to escalate further.

The scale of the March 2009 Pibor County violence in Jonglei State led UNMIS Sector III Force Commander to unilaterally deploy a company of approximately 150 peacekeeping troops around the Dinka Bor village of Anyidi following April 5 clashes between Dinka Bor youth and Murle cattle raiders. Although unsanctioned by New York, senior UNMIS officials consider this the first time UNMIS has exercised its Chapter Seven mandate since the UN arrived in Sudan in 2004. The long-overdue move was controversial within UNMIS, and was reportedly under internal review.

On 20 September 2009, in Duk Padiet, Jonglei State, Luo Nuer tribemen attacked a Dinka village. Initial reports claim that anywhere from 1,000 to 4,700 Lou Nuer armed youth attacked Duk Padiet at 11:30am on September 20 and seized the village for just over an hour and a half. The youth came from three Jonglei counties: Akobo West, Nyirol and Uror. Initial reports claim that the armed youth were dressed in military uniforms armed with G-3 rifles and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs); however, Gressly could not confirm this information. Speculation on the cause of the attack continues, as it was the second of its kind by Lou-Nuer on a Dinka Hol tribe, and there were no cattle in the area.

The fighting resulted in the deaths of approximately 72 civilians and security force members, numerous injuries, and the destruction of approximately 250 homes. ) During the September 22 UN Security Management Team (SMT) meeting, the UN confirmed that 72 people were killed in a 20 September 2009 attack by Lou Nuer on Dinka Hol tribe in Duk Padiet, Jonglei State, but that numbers may increase in coming days. The UN, along with Minister of Interior Gier Chuang Aluong and Jonglei Governor General Koul Manyang Juuk, made an assessment of Duk Padiet village on September 21. The attack took place after the deputy governor's attempt to stop the attack through talks with the leader of the armed Lou Nuer youth--a former member of an Other Armed Group (OAG) and disaffected ex-SPLA--broke down on the evening of September 19. The deputy governor had been in talks with the youth since September 14, and had informed the UN that an agreement was close to conclusion, hence the failure of the UN to intervene.

The attacks in Duk Padiet were of concern due to the changing nature of the attacks. The latter had shifted from traditional cattle raiding to more targeted attacks on GOSS security forces, with the apparent aim of provoking further violence. Moreover, Jonglei peace initiatives are useless without follow-up on agreements reached between groups, sustained UN presence to protect civilians and a clear chain of command within the Government of South Sudan on responsibility for civilian welfare and protection. Lastly, the SPLA's reliance on UN logistical support to undertake internal security raises concerns about the Government of South Sudan's security capacity.

In the first two weeks of 2010, there were at least four major attacks in Southern Sudan, with one in Warrab State resulting in 140 dead and 90 wounded. The causes behind this and many other clashes remain unclear and the perpetrators unknown. UN experts report that clashes in Jonglei, Upper Nile and other states between tribal groups continue. There have been ten Murle attacks on Dinka and Nuer in the first two weeks of 2010. UN experts claim the attacks are probing to find weaknesses among neighboring tribes before larger attacks are launched, as was done in 2009.

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