[Debate] Death Toll Passes 600 From Raid in South Sudan

Yoshie Furuhashi critical.montages at gmail.com
Wed Aug 24 15:02:57 BST 2011

August 22, 2011
Death Toll Passes 600 From Raid in South Sudan

KAMPALA, Uganda — The death toll from a cattle raid in an eastern
region of weeks-old South Sudan rose significantly on Monday with the
United Nations saying more than 600 people had been killed in what was
a retaliatory attack that has raised fears of ethnic instability on
the deeply impoverished country.

The fighting, last Thursday by ethnic Murle on three Nuer villages was
originally reported to have resulted in 58 deaths. But on Monday, the
United Nations said the flow of information had been hampered by vast
distances and poor logistics.

In a statement, the United Nations said that up to 30,000 head of
cattle had been stolen and that it was investigating the possibility
that as many as 200 people had been abducted, making it one of the
largest attacks in recent memory. The statement called for an end to
the “wanton violence” in the region.

“The casualties are very significant,” the United Nations special
representative, Hilde F. Johnson, said in a telephone interview. “We
are deeply concerned.”

Ms. Johnson said that the raids, which are part of a continuing
conflict, did not reflect political instability in the country, but
that it had “deep roots.”

South Sudan became the world’s newest country last month when it
declared independence from the north, which is largely Arab and
Muslim, after decades of civil war. In an independence day speech on
July 9 to tens of thousands of residents, President Salva Kiir
promised amnesty to all militias and urged South Sudan’s people to
forge a national identity that transcended ethnic groups — a difficult
task in a country that is huge and poor.

In addition, a host of problems that have the potential for conflict
remain, including disputes with the north over oil rights, border
delineation and the contested region of Abyei.

Within South Sudan itself, the army lacks cohesion and the Dinka
ethnic group is criticized by other groups for holding top posts in
the government and army. A number of rebellions in the country
continue, and the United Nations said Monday that an alarming number
of weapons was accumulating in Jonglei State, where the recent
violence took place.

“There is a big gap between announcing a decision and figuring out how
to implement it,” said Bruce Patton, a co-founder of the Harvard
Negotiation Project. The “danger,” he said, “is lost momentum,
disillusionment, and often lingering distrust.”

In a society where cattle are esteemed, cattle raiding has been a
violent source of conflict.

In June, just weeks before independence, the Dinka and the Nuer, who
have been at odds with each other, teamed up in Jonglei State to
attack the Murle, killing more than 400 people and stealing thousands
of cattle.

The Murle raid on the local Nuer villages in Jonglei last week was an
act of retaliation, the United Nations said, and it warned that more
of them could follow.

“We fear a cycle of violence that will never end,” Ms. Johnson said.

Yoshie Furuhashi

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