January 31, 2012 (BOR) – Mary Ayen ran away with her two sisters and a brother from a village due to the recent insecurity in Jonglei state and settled in Bor town in December but now face the dilemma of where to get education when primary schools open in two week times.
Ayen, 17, said her parents remained in their village 20 kilometres east of Bor town, the capital of Jonglei state, hoping to reunite with them if government provides adequate protection to the area.
Jonglei state government say disarmament, deployment of police in “buffer zones” separating ethnic communities and creation of mobile military patrol unit will restore safety and argues villagers to be hopeful for the future.
At least 1,000 people were killed in 2011 in Jonglei state alone according to UN figures in cattle rustling and counter-raids along ethnic lines.
In December 2011, an estimated 6,000-8,000 armed Lou Nuer youth launched what they called a retaliatory attack on Murle villages in Pibor county killing hundreds and displacing thousands of people.
Exact figures have not been confirmed but the Commissioner of Pibor has said the figure is over 3,000 dead but the UN have dismissed this. The UN say that over 100,000 people have been affected by the raid and consequent attacks by the Murle in early January.
Prior to the Pibor attack, Jalle Payam [district] in Bor county inhabited by Dinka tribe on 5 December, 2011 was attacked, allegedly by Murle raiders, killing at least 50 people according to officials.
Other villages in Bor county came under a series of attack in late December, including Kapat Boma (sub-district) in Makuach Payam that left three people dead on 28 December, 2011 leading to displacement of many people including Mary Ayen and her sisters and brother.
Like other young displaced people Mary faces another dilemma: whether to stay in the town with expensive tuition fees and soaring prices of food items.
“My major fear is failing to go to school when fist term opens on February 15, 2012,” said the primary six teenager.
Her story is reflected in Bor as the number of street children has surged in January due to increasing migration from rural areas to urban areas, accelerated by a series of attack in villages remote from Bor town where Jonglei citizens believe there is better protection.
Older people remained in the villages to look after cattle and this year’s crops. Parents, who cannot afford to pay higher schools fees in town, hope that government will be able to provide security for rural areas soon.
“In a village school, the fees is only twenty South Sudanese or less but here [Bor town], it is something over fifty SSP a term,” Chol Deng, a father of four who fled from his village in January, told Sudan Tribune.
South Sudan’s government has labelled Jonglei a “disaster area” following what is thought to have been a heavy attack on Pibor county at the eve of Christmas. Both local and national authorities say comprehensive disarmament will be carried out in the troubled state “very soon.”
Jonglei state says the police have less armed men and women compared to the number of armed civilians who acquired guns during the south-north two decades of civil war.
Jonglei state minister for local government, Diing Akol, told Sudan Tribune that he is against the desertion of villages saying it was “shameful” that South Sudan’s army and police were not able to provide then with security.
“Now it is a question time and soon the situation will be normal in Jonglei state,” said Ding Akol.
“We are going to deploy forces in every Payam [district] and we will have mobile patrol units,” he said.
South Sudan became independence from Sudan in July 2011 following a January 2011 referendum, promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended two decades civil war between mainly Muslim north and South Sudan, most of whom follow Christian and traditional African beliefs.
Maintaining security in South Sudan is one of the major challenges facing the fledgling nation. The government is attempting to stop the killings through disarmament but some groups say that leaves them vulnerable to groups who have not been so well disarmed.
South Sudan’s poor road network also hinders responses to incidents, such as those over the last six weeks.