Thousands flee South Sudan clashes and seek UN refuge

 

Youths armed with sticks, machetes and spears battled police in a South Sudanese town, forcing thousands of civilians to seek refuge in a UN compound, the United Nations and residents said.

A local journalist said he counted four dead bodies after the clashes broke out yesterday in the northern town of Wau, and had heard more than 15 people may have died.

South Sudan won independence from Sudan last year. Since then its government has struggled to assert control over an impoverished country the size of France that is awash with arms after decades of civil war, rebellions and tribal clashes.

Details were unclear but government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the clashes broke out in Wau after the bodies of six Dinka tribespeople were found.

It was believed the six were among 28 farmers abducted in retaliation for another outbreak of deadly violence in the town earlier this month when security forces opened fire on a protest against plans to relocate a local authority's headquarters.

"Six bodies were brought to Wau town three days ago raising tension among various communities in Wau, which is believed to be the cause of yesterday's violence," Benjamin told a news conference in the capital Juba.

It was not immediately clear why the kidnappers had chosen to abduct those farmers.

Human rights groups regularly accuse South Sudan's army and police, a collection of former guerillas, of heavy handed tactics and human rights abuses - charges dismissed by the security forces.

Up to 300 armed Dinka youth set fire to several buildings in Wau, the main town of South Sudan's Western Bahr El Ghazal state which borders Sudan, according to the United Nations. Police used teargas to disperse the protest, while shooting could be heard, residents said.

"Some youths ... began the shooting. Police intervened and began exchanging fire with them," a witness told Reuters.

Benjamin declined to give details of any casualties, saying only the government "regretted the loss of lives and destruction of property".

Kouider Zerrouk, spokesman for the UN Mission in South Sudan, said thousands of civilians, mainly women and children, had sought refuge at the UN compound in Wau.

"They are under the protection of the mission," he said.

James Deng Dimo, a journalist in Wau, said he had counted four dead bodies and seen several injured people in hospitals.

"People are telling me that there are over 15 killed," he said, adding that he had seen people wounded by machetes, sticks and gunshot.

Hundreds of police officers patrolled the streets on Thursday after reinforcements arrived from the capital Juba by plane. Many residents were leaving the town.

"They are going to the rural areas because they fear there might be a repeat. Where I am standing I can see people carrying luggage like mattresses, beds and bags," Dimo said.

South Sudan is struggling with a severe economic crisis after shutting down its oil production, which contributed to 98 percent of state income, in January in a row with Sudan over export fees.

A lack of efficient state bodies and widespread violence has hampered plans to attract investment to a country rich in fertile land, oil and minerals.

Reuters

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Project Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Administrator is requ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn