Clashes between Mvolo and Yirol West counties leave 15 dead
February 15, 2011 (YAMBIO) – The Commissioner of Mvolo county Paul Thiel has told Yambio FM that the situation in Mvolo has normalized after six days of clashes between agricultural communities of Mvolo county in Western Equatoria state and nearby cattle-keepers of Yirol West county in Lakes state.
The commissioner said that eight people had been killed in Mvolo. Seven were killed in Girindi and a another killed mid last week while travelling between Mundri and Yeri districts. Another seven dead bodies were found in a cattle camp.
Local officials and analysts say the Dinka Agar and Jur tribes are in dispute over land ownership rights and cattle grazing. Due to the remoteness of Mvolo, Sudan Tribune has not been able to reach people in the area to confirm details of the incident.
Thiel told Yambio FM on Tuesday that the fighting was sparked after a businessman on his way from Mundri to Yeri payam [district] was stabbed to death by two cattle keepers. His motorcycle and goods were stolen according to the commissioner.
He added that young men from Mvolo traced the motorcycle to a cattle camp where they attacked the cattle keepers in revenge. The commissioner said that since Monday evening there have been no more reports of clashes.
Thiel also pointed out that “on Monday evening organized forces composed of SPLA, police and wildlife arrived from Yirol to relocate the people of Yirol out from Mvolo county, however after being questioned by authority, they said it was a directive from the county to make them leave Mvolo county.”
The commissioner said “over 400 people have been displaced from Lesi payam to Yeri payam at the outskirt of Mvolo town staying in schools and in the open air without bare necessities.”
“The condition of the displaced people are worse, since there is only one bore hole in Yeri payam, no food to feed the people since they left their food items in their homes,” he added.
He called upon the South Sudan government to try and stop the clashes and to find amicable solutions by holding a conference to cease the conflict over cattle.
The commissioner reiterated that this is not the first time Mvolo county is in conflict with the neighboring Yirol West county in Lakes state.
“We were neighbors with Yirol and Rumbek before we and forefathers were born, no fighting took place but the cattle is the source of the conflicts, we do not have any intention with all Dinka communities in the county, but only the cattle keepers who destroy farms, and little water points”, he stressed.
The deputy governor of Western Equatoria state Sapana A. Abuyi who also comes from Mvolo said the recent clashes between Mvolo communities and Yirol West of Lakes state is not subjected to border differences.”
Abuyi pointed out that, the recent conflict is in Lesi boma between West Mundri county and lakes states which he termed as “farmers and cattle keepers’ indifferences.”
However, Abuyi stated that before the conflict started he contacted the political advisor of Lakes state regarding the tension between the cattle keepers and asked him to help assist evacuating the cattle keepers from the county.
Since 2005 over 300 people have lost their lives in such clashes in Mvolo county.
Late last year the governor of Western Equatoria state, Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro, paid official visits to the neighboring states of Western Bahr el Ghazal and Lakes seeking to foster good neighborhood and bring an end to cattle related violence.
In the meetings with the two governors and their cabinets, they agreed to open coordination offices for easy coordination of problems between the states.
The possession of firearms by cattle owners is a major causeof insecurity in South Sudan and Western Equatoria in particular, which has seen intermitant clashes between rival groups in 2006.
To end the violence five years ago a reconciliation dialogue was organized by the then Western Equatoria government headed by Patrick Zamoi. Reconciliation had made progress in most parts of the state, but Mvolo county has witnessed more of such attacks, more than three times since 2006.
Eyewitness say the majority of the displaced from the recent attacks have been forced to shelter under trees and by a seasonal river where water is readily available but their living conditions could quickly deteriorate” with winter approaching.
“Once again, civilians are bearing the brunt of fighting in Mvolo county,” said politician from Mvolo, on condition of anonymity.
Tribal fighting, cattle raids and renegade soldiers pose serious insecurity to what will soon be the world’s 193rd and Africa’s 54th nation, after the South voted in January to seceded from the North.