JUBA: South Sudan’s army has killed 13 people suspected of belonging to a rebel militia in the troubled eastern state of Jonglei, a local official said yesterday, the latest violence threatening government plans to explore a huge oilfield.
South Sudan won independence from Sudan last year but its government has struggled to assert control over vast territories where many people have weapons after decades of civil war with Khartoum ending in 2005.
In Jonglei a cycle of revenge killings between the Murle and Lou Nuer tribes and a heavy-handed government disarmament campaign have eroded hopes that independence would bring peace.
The government plans to explore a vast oilfield in Jonglei with the help of France’s Total and other foreign oil firms.
The army, composed of poorly trained former militiamen and guerrillas, shot dead 13 people on Dec. 4 near the town of Gumuruk in Pibor county, local commissioner Joseph Konyi said.
“According to the army they were ambushed by the rebels. But locals said (those killed) were civilians. We don’t know which is true,” Konyi told Reuters.
The army was not available to comment despite repeated attempts to reach it. The government has played down accusations by rights groups that its security forces committed abuses against civilians during a campaign to disarm civilians and end cattle raiding.
Pibor’s former human rights commissioner, Peter Gazulu, said the dead were civilians and were not members of a local insurgency run by David Yau Yau, a former theology student.