Arrival of armed Lou Nuer in Upper Nile raises concerns

23 Feb 2012

Arrival of armed Lou Nuer in Upper Nile raises concerns

18 February 2012 – Fleeing conflict in Jonglei State, thousands of armed, displaced Lou Nuer are arriving in Ulang and Baliet counties in Upper Nile State, raising tensions among local communities who have taken part in civilian disarmament exercises.

Explaining their arrival as well as weapons, Chief Moses Choat Nor of Jonglei's Akobo County, said, "We have come here to look for safety away from the Murle. We have lost lives and cattle along the way to Ulang."

Ulang County Commissioner Peter Chuol Biel said that about 1,019 small arms were collected from the native Jikany Nuer in January of this year. Similarly, residents of Baliet County have been disarmed three times.

"I have talked to Lou Nuer chiefs on the issue of arms," Mr. Biel said. "I ... requested them not to come to villages of Jikany Nuer with arms."

During an UNMISS security assessment mission to the area, disarmed native Jikany Nuer said they feared that the Lou Nuer would be tempted to rustle Ulang cattle, an allegation Lou Nuer chiefs denied.

"We have arms to protect ourselves from attackers," said Douth Long Rik, a Lou Nuer elder from Akobo. "We will not use (the arms) against Jikany people. We will keep our guns, and if the government decides to disarm us, we will give them up."

This movement by the Lou Nuer is also part of their annual migration in search of pasture and water along the Sobat River. UNMISS Civil Affairs Officer Abdul Kamara said the current conflict in Jonglei State had complicated this year's migration cycle.

"The fact remains that these two communities get into conflict during the migration period," he said, adding that an increase in internally displaced persons to the area, where resources were already stretched, complicated the challenges.

Commissioner Biel assured both communities that the state military and police were on the ground to maintain rule of law, urging the Lou Nuer to desist from carrying arms within the area.

He added that plans were afoot to again disarm civilians. The Lou Nuer would have to surrender their guns to the government once the time came, he said.