Source: Radio Tamazuj
Gunmen in Maban County of South Sudan deliberately shot and killed at least six unarmed civilians on the basis of their ethnicity, while clashes between armed groups claimed the lives of others over the last three days.
Local militia further carried out door-to-door searches for people of the Nuer ethnicity. This comes after a group of Nuer soldiers of the national army (SPLA) were attacked by county natives and fled.
A military source in Upper Nile State explained to Radio Tamazuj on Monday that about 20 SPLA soldiers from the Nuer tribe clashed with local youths known as Maban Defense Force (MDF), as a result of ‘trivial issues’ on Sunday at night.
Radio Tamazuj reported on Sunday night that MDF fighters started targeting people of Nuer ethnicity in the Bunj market that night.
UNMISS, the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, confirmed the same the next day stating, “Since last night, elements of this militia have been moving around the town, approaching offices of humanitarian organizations and asking if they have any Nuer employees.”
According to the military source, the initial clashes coincided with a fresh transfer of SPLA soldiers from the division headquarters in Renk to Maban County. Some of the SPLA soldiers transferred were Nuer by ethnicity.
The military officer explained that the local militia attacked these Nuer government troops who had just arrived from Renk, claiming the gunmen ‘did not know’ that the Nuers were loyal to the government.
“In the morning [on Monday], the Maban Defense Force went to the market at 10:30 and attacked some Nuer soldiers who had just arrived from Renk and clashes took place between the two sides,” he said.
“The local youths who are being supported by the government did not know that those soldiers who were brought from Renk were pro-government,” he noted.
An officer was killed and another man was wounded from the Maban side, according to the same source. However, another source had put the death toll from the initial clashes on Sunday at two Nuer soldiers and four Maban fighters.
As a result of the clashes, at least one trader was killed by a stray bullet, a local resident told Radio Tamazuj on Monday. Another woman was shot in the head, who was taken to the Bunj Hospital for treatment yesterday morning.
The Bunj resident said the clashes forced citizens to desert their homes and run to outlying areas for safety.
On Monday, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) reported that one of their staff, Gabriel Yien Gach was shot and killed that morning, because he was ethnically Nuer.
In a formal statement, Norwegian People’s Aid said, “According to local sources Gabriel Yien was pulled out of a NPA vehicle and killed based on his ethnicity.”
Gabriel Yien Gach was working in NPA’s Food Security and Livelihood Program. This program is supporting the local community, as well as the internally displaced, with agriculture support and emergency food.
Asked by a Radio Tamazuj journalist to comment on this report, the Executive Director of Maban County Nango Yasin said, “There was not any senior official of an organization who was killed… that was just a driver, that was he only one, who worked for an organization.
“He was the only one killed. There were no senior people killed from the organizations.”
Asked to comment on the clashes inside Bunj, he said, “There were not many people killed.” He put the number at two killed, later adding, “There are no more problems, there are no more clashes
Radio Tamazuj learnt from another source on Tuesday, however, that the number of traders killed may be has high as 12.
Also on Tuesday, another six NGO workers were killed on the basis of their ethnicity.
Fatoumata Lejeune, UNHCR Senior External Relations Officer in Juba stated “after yesterday’s killing five more Nuer NGO workers [were] killed in Maban.” She added that two worked for Relief International, one for ACTED and one for AAH.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer said late Monday that he was “appalled and saddened” by the news of the killing of the NPA worker.
“Such crimes put the humanitarian operation in Maban at risk, jeopardizing the lives of tens of thousands of men, women and children who count on aid organizations for their survival,” he said.
He also called on South Sudanese to “respect and safeguard the contributions of their brothers and sisters who work to save lives, day after day.”
The number of Nuer soldiers who have deserted from the SPLA sicne the start of the clashes is unconfirmed. The military source put the number at 20, saying they had moved away from Bunj town and were moving toward agricultural areas in Tifin area between Renk and Maban.
Kathrine Raadim, Head of International Department in NPA, condemned the killings saying, “attacks on civilians are unacceptable, but attacks based on ethnicity are even direr as they will only feed into the circle of violence and revenge.”
Meanwhile, UNMISS on Monday disclosed it has “no military or police presence in Bunj,” expressing concern about the safety of civilians and relief workers.