Over 200 people have been wounded in ongoing ethnic violence between Lou Nuer and Murle tribes over the past one week. The two tribes have constantly fought over cattle and land dating back to colonial times.
"The communities are in urgent need of medical attention," Toby Lanzer, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, said in a statement, referring to the ongoing fighting pitting the Lou Nuer against the Murle tribe.
The top UN official warned more casualties could be found following more than one week of fierce tribal fighting in Jonglei.
"Some 200 casualties have arrived in Manyabol", Lanzer told the French news agency AFP. Manyabol is only one of the remote settlements where militia gunmen from rival ethnic groups have been battling.
UNMISS has about 6,800 troops in Africa's youngest nation. Around 1,100 of them are stationed in Jonglei.
The United Nations Security Council last Thursday, (11.07.2013) renewed the mandate for its mission in South Sudan for another year.
Though there are no figures on possible deaths, Lanzer made an urgent appeal to leaders "to halt the cycle of violence that is leading to senseless loss of life and suffering amongst civilians."
The UN said it was airlifting the most critically injured to Jonglei's main hospital in Bor.
Martin Searle, spokesman for Doctors Without Borders (MSF - Medecins Sans Frontieres) said they were treating “gunshot wounds and leg fractures. ” He also added that they were expecting to see more patients.
History of violence
Cattle raids and reprisal killings are a common occurrence in Jonglei. The two tribes have been traditional enemies for more than fifty years. Lou Nuer people are estimated to be over one million, while the Murle tribe numbers about half a million people. Both these two communities practice pastoralism.
Ethnic rivalries were exacerbated by the 1983-2005 war with Khartoum, which armed and pitted communities against each other.
DW correspondent James Shimanyula quoted South Sudan's representative to the UN, Francis Deng as saying the presence of small arms in his country is due to the civil war. "There is a gap which can be attributed to the negative legacy of a long and devastating conflict," according to Deng, the conflict left his people traumatized, militarized and heavily armed.
South Sudan's largest state is also facing a rebel insurgency in Pibor County led by a renegade colonel David Yau Yau since 2010.
Yau Yau who comes from the Murle tribe says he is fighting corruption, army abuses and one-party rule in South Sudan.
South Sudan accuses Sudan of supplying Yau Yau with weapons, a claim supported by diplomats. But South Sudan's army is also fuelling dissent with reports of its troops committing human rights abuses such as rape, killings and torture during a state disarmament campaign. The two conflicts have made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to gain access to the area. Seasonal rainfall also makes the few roads available impassable.
Where are the young men?
Some government officials in Lou Nuer areas in northern Jonglei denied that young men had set off to fight.
Local commissioner Koang Rambang Chol dismissed reports that any of the Lou Nuer youth have left. "This is farming season," he said, before adding that perhaps "some of the youth will be patrolling the borders of our areas. " Rambang Chol's response follows a similar pattern in which local leaders have denied past clashes.
However Jonglei Governor Kuol Manyang Juuk confirmed to local journalists that there had been an offensive. "The Lou Nuer youth have moved to the Murle land, But what can I do. The security forces cannot even go on foot," the Governor said.
"It is too wet now to move in the wetland, " Manyang Juuk added, saying "the best is that citizens move to where the SPLA forces are for protection."
Western powers are worried the violence could lead to an all out civil war. According to the UN, a cycle of tribal clashes has claimed the lives of more than 1,600 people in Jonglei since South Sudan's seceded from Sudan.