BOR, SOUTH SUDAN — Inter-ethnic clashes in the east of Jonglei state have claimed scores of lives, wounded fighters from the Lou Nuer and Murle communities have said as they sought medical care in Bor, the capital of the state.
Humanitarian agencies and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have been unable to confirm the casualty figures, but the head of mission for Doctors without Borders (MSF), Raphael Gorgeu, said an MSF hospital in Bor was treating 144 people, most of whom had firearm injuries and 28 of whom required surgery.
Chuol Dak Ruach, a member of the Lou Nuer community who took part in the fighting last week with the Murle, gave a chilling description of the clashes, which pitted Lou Nuer against Murle.
“We started from an area called Tang-nyang and proceeded to overrun their villages. We raided their cattle and children, including girls.
"We killed many people. I am not sure of the total number, but 100 is a small number to say,” he said, adding that, by his reckoning, 15 Lou Nuer were killed in the clashes, which Dak said were launched in retaliation for a Murle attack on Lou Nuer in February, in which state officials have said that more than 100 Lou Nuer were killed during their annual cattle migration across the state.
Dak said he was present during that attack.
“We were going to a place call Uland in Upper Nile," he said.
"We wanted to take our children and animals to water points there. But they came to meet us on the way and killed the children, women and elderly people. This is how it started.”
The United States said last week in a statement that it was "deeply concerned by the on-going violence in Jonglei State, and by mounting reports of abuse of civilians, including killings, beatings, and looting and destruction of homes and humanitarian facilities.
"Building a lasting peace in Jonglei is essential to reaching the vision South Sudan articulated at its independence – of forging an inclusive, democratic state at peace internally and with its neighbors," the statement said.
The European Union delegation to South Sudan released a letter warning that the situation could “lead to an outright ethnic conflict with dramatic consequences.”
UNMISS and western diplomats have called on the South Sudanese army to defuse the situation.
South Sudan Army spokesman Philip Aguer had no comment to make, other than to say he was aware of reports of clashes.
An earlier version of this story stated that an MSF hospital treated fighters from "both sides" of the fighting. VOA regrets the error and has corrected it in this version of the story.