Friday, January 6, 2012

Nuer-Murle Conflict in South Sudan

Alhurra Television asked me to comment 6 January 2012 on the conflict in Jonglei State of South Sudan between the Lou Nuer and Murle people.

I explained that this conflict has deep roots related to cattle raiding and the cultural requirement that young men pay a bride price in cattle. The current round of cattle raiding apparently began last June when there was a small Lou Nuer raid against the Murle that resulted in some deaths. The Murle responded with a more serious attack in August against the Lou Nuer, killing a larger number of people.

The most recent attack that began in late December has resulted in as many as 3,000 deaths and threatens to disrupt stability throughout much of Jonglei State. So far, the government in Juba, represented by Vice President Riak Machar, has been unable to end the current fighting. This is an embarrassment for the new South Sudan government, although it is essentially a local issue that does not seriously threaten the South Sudan government.

Young Lou Nuer carried out the latest attack in the name of the Nuer White Army, a group that formed in the early 1990s with the help of Riak Machar and then was forced to disband after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. For excellent background on the army, see The White Army: An Introduction and Overview by John Young published in 2007 by The Small Arms Survey.

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