Tens of thousands of villagers in South Sudan are hiding in the bush, waiting for UN and government troops to stop a tribal conflict, which officials fear may have left scores of people dead over the weekend.
Armed youths from the Lou Nuer tribe marched on the remote town of Pibor in Jonglei state, home to the rival Murle people, who they blame for cattle raiding.
“The situation is tense as the Lou Nuer are still around Pibor,” Isaac Ajiba, Jonglei’s information minister, said on Monday.
Thatched huts have been burned and, according to Parthesarathy Rajendran, the head of Doctors without Borders (known by its French name Medicines sans Frontieres, or MSF) in South Sudan, thousands have been displaced, including his own staff.
“Many of our staff are in the bush and we also heard an MSF clinic has been damaged and looted,” he told Al Jazeera.
“MSF is the only medical health care in the whole region, and the population is very vulnerable for all kinds of medical issues. So we are very concerned about those fleeing into the bush. They don’t have access to water, medical care or food.”
The government and the UN, which has warned the violence could lead to a “major tragedy”, were strengthening their forces in the area.
“We are worried about their conditions. They are without water, shelter and food. They are hiding in the bush. I think it is between 20,000 and 50,000. This is an estimate only,” Lise Gande, UN humanitarian co-ordinator for South Sudan, told the Reuters news agency.
Grande said on Sunday that the number of government forces heading to Pibor was estimated at 3,000 troops and 800 police. Read more…