South Sudan - Tribal Warfare 2011

In 2011 alone, more than 3,000 people have died from violent conflict within South Sudan, and 350,000 people were displaced. Between January 2011 and September 2012, conflict in Jonglei State resulted in nearly 2,700 deaths and displaced approximately 200,000 people — representing more than half of South Sudan’s total violence-related deaths and displacements during that period. Cattle raids and abductions between the Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic groups increasingly targeted unarmed civilians, resulting in displacement and insecurity, as well as restricted access for humanitarian organizations.

The 2010 elections sparked a number of insurgencies in South Sudan. In Jonglei State, General George Athor and David Yau Yau formed interlinked rebellions. Although the insurgencies ended in 2011 with the death of Athor and an amnesty for Yau Yau, tensions continued to escalate.

There is a broader problem between two large Nuer communities - the Eastern Jikany Nuer of Nasir, Ulang, Maiwut, and Longechuk counties (and also in Ethiopia); and the Lou Nuer of Jonglei State, primarily in Wuror, Nyirol, and Akobo counties. Insufficient amount of water constitutes a key conflict driver for the Lou, who lack access to water in the dry season in their heartland in central Jonglei. As a result, the Lou and their cattle travel to areas with permanent water near the Sobat River, where they encounter the Jikany; the Akobo River, where they meet Jikany and Anyuak; and the Nile River, where they come across Dinka and other Nuer in Ayod.

Acting on the recommendation of the Secretary-General, the Security Council resolution 1996 (2011) 8 July 2011, establishing the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for an initial period of one year, from 9 July 2011, with the intention to renew for further periods as may be required. The mandate of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) ended on the same date. On 9 July 2011, South Sudan became the newest country in the world. The birth of the Republic of South Sudan is the culmination of a six-year peace process which began with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on 9 January 2005 between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which ended more than 20 years of war.

UNMISS' objective is to consolidate peace and security, and help establish conditions for development in the Republic of South Sudan, with a view to strengthening the capacity of the Government of South Sudan to govern effectively and democratically and establish good relations with its neighbors.

More than 1,000 people were killed and 25,000 head of cattle stolen in two major cattle raids in Jonglei State in 2011, the first in June 2011, the second, a retaliation by the Murle on the Lou Nuer community which carried out the earlier raid. "In both case we saw very large-scale movement, in army-like fashion. New arms, new weapons, and Thuraya [satellite] phones. So this is not normal cattle rustling. This is something way beyond that and it is something that is extremely worrisome," UNMISS Special Representative Hilde Johnson told reporters in Juba.

After the attack by the Murle on Pieri, Ubor County, late in August 2011, days after independence the Lou Nuer/Murle peace process led by the Sudan Council of Churches, together with efforts of military deterrence by UNMISS, succeeded in restraining retaliatory attacks in Jonglei State from September to November. However, the peace process collapsed early in December, owing to la ck of political will on the part of the concerned parties to make the necessary compromises. In December 2011 and January 2012, thousands of armed Lou Nuer marched across the Jonglei state, attacking the Murle villages. On 13 December, an UNMISS police patrol spotted a large group of armed Lou Nuer youth moving south towards Murle territory.

On 23 December 2011, an UNMISS air patrol identified a column of approximately 2,000 armed Lou Nuer youth moving south through Murle territory, looting and burning villages along the way. By 26 December 2011, the group of attackers had grown to 3,000 to 5,000 youth. On 30 December, an UNMISS air patrol spotted approximately 6,000 to 8,000 armed Lou Nuer youth moving southward. By 4 January 2012, the bulk of the Lou Nuer attackers had started to return northward with large cattle herds. Subsequently, Murle youth launched reprisal attacks on Lou Nuer and Dinka settlements.

South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar, who rushed to the scene with the message of peace, was simply scuffed off and ignored by the Lou Nuer armed gangs, who continued on with their onslaught. The fact that the Lou Nuer warriors would not listen to the Vice President Riek Machar demonstrated a serious disconnect between the authorities and civilians — a fact that should have already worried those in power in Juba.

In the last major flareup of violence, in January 2012, some 8,000 Lou Nuer and others descended on Murle villages, looting cattle, attacking women and children, massacring and burning. Hundreds, or even thousands died, and hundreds more in northern Jonglei in a spate of smaller revenge attacks.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said 31 August 2012 it was increasingly concerned by recent violence in Jonglei state that threatens the important gains made this year in restoring peace and security. “UNMISS is particularly concerned by the apparent emergence in Jonglei of an armed insurgency group linked to the militia leader David Yau Yau, which is believed to be acting in concert with groups of armed youths who have evaded the civilian disarmament operation in the state,” the Mission said in a press statement. “It is essential to preserve the gains achieved over recent months in the improved security situation in Jonglei and ensure the civilian disarmament process goes forward as a key element of this effort,” it added.

Interethnic clashes occurred throughout 2012, including the continuation of a cycle of retaliatory attacks between the Murle and Lou Nuer ethnic groups in Jonglei State. Interethnic conflict also continued in Lakes State, with subgroups of the dominant Dinka group, Dinka pastoralists, and Jur Bel agriculturalists fighting for land resources. Interethnic clashes occurred in northeast Lakes State between Nuer from Unity State and Dinka in Lakes State. As in 2011 tensions in Unity State between nomadic Misseriya, the Nuer, and the Ngok Dinka communities resulted in occasional confrontations. Migrations of northern Arab groups, including Misseriya from Southern Kordofan who traveled through Abyei to reach grazing points further south, increased competition and tension over resources for cattle.

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