BOR, SOUTH SUDAN — Dozens are feared dead in Jonglei state after fresh fighting broke out between ethnic Lou Nuer and Murle, officials said Thursday.
Local officials say the fighting started a week ago but were unable to say what caused the unrest.
In a letter sent to Jonglei Governor Kuol Manyang Juuk, Pibor County Commissioner Joshua Konyi said Lou Nuer youths attacked the Murle village of Nanaam on Friday. The fighting subsequently spread to villages in Pibor county, he said.
Baba Medan, a member of Parliament representing northern Pibor in the Jonglei state assembly, accused a prominent Lou Nuer spiritual leader, Dak Kueth, of leading the youths to attack the Murle.
Medan also said the attackers are cattle raiders and wanted to rustle cattle from the Murle villages.
The South Sudanese army has not intervened to try to stop the violence, he said.
The U.S. embassy in South Sudan on Wednesday released a letter calling on the government of South Sudan to do more to protect people in Jonglei state, and expressing disappointment in the army for not defending South Sudanese citizens in vulnerable areas.
"The lack of action to protect civilians constitutes an egregious abdication of responsibility by the SPLA and the civilian government," the letter said.
South Sudan’s army spokesman Philip Aguer said the military took no action because it had no orders to intervene to stop the violence.
"It has to come through the government because we implement the orders of the government," he said.
"So if it is something related to the civil population, the army will not just do whatever they want to do without clear instructions," he said.
The latest round of violence came as South Sudan celebrated its second anniversary of independence. South Sudan becames the world's newest nation on July 9, 2011 after an overwhelming majority of South Sudanese voted in favor of independence in a referendum in January of the same year.
The clashes in Jonglei came despite a peace deal being signed in May 2012 by Lou Nuer and Murle tribal chiefs.