Eighty-two civilians and 45 soldiers are dead following a disarmament exercise carried out in southern Sudan.
Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang announced the tragic news. He also stated that his army camp in Romich was struck overnight by “armed youths.”
The struggle began after South Sudan People’s Defence Force attempted to forcibly disarm civilians in the town of Tonj as part of a recent peace agreement. The agreement followed six years of disputes over grazing land, cattle-raiding, revenge killings amongst the Muok, Thony, Yar and Apuk-Juwiir communities.
When law enforcement infiltrated the town to remove the weapons, members of the communities refused and fought back.
Thony Paramount Chief, Kuel Bak Nyang, attributed the majority of the disputes to land grazing.
“We in the Thony community are willing to share the disputed grazing land but we will not compromise on the issue of renaming our land and claim for the ownership,” he said in February.
Another community leader, Peter Akot Akeen, blamed rumors and a lack of police presence for the sate of violent attacks.
“There is not enough of a presence of police in our payam,” he said. “Instead armed youth are taking responsibility for protecting civilians and their property.”
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric a market in Romich “was reportedly looted and some shops were burned to the ground … Many women and children fled in fear of their lives”.
Now dozens of families will be forced to bury their loved ones, and communities will be charged with rebuilding the villages they have fought so vigorously to protect.