Clashes in Jonglei district of South Sudan have tested the young government of the newly independent state with a battalion of blue helmets having to be drafted in to Pibor town at the start of January 2012. The UN soldiers were supporting government troops from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army who had been tasked with defending civilians from lethal ethnic clashes in the area.
An estimated 6,000 men from the Lou Nuer community attacked members of the Murle ethnic group who had taken refuge in Pibor town after an earlier offensive on Lukangol. UN and Sudanese forces attempted to rebuff the assembled force, which has reportedly now left the area. Over a thousand people have reportedly been killed in recent months as a result of the historic conflict between the Lou Nuer and Murle, who compete for resources such as land, water and cattle.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke on the telephone with the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, to discuss the situation in Jonglei state. It is understood that South Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar, is leading negotiations between the two communities to diffuse tensions.