S Sudan youth 'planning to attack tribe'

Juba - Thousands of young people in South Sudan are preparing to attack a rival tribe in what could become a major tragedy, the United Nations warned on Monday.

"I am deeply concerned to learn of reports of this imminent large scale attack on civilians in Jonglei state," Hilde Johnson, who heads the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), said in a statement.

"The government must act now if we are to avert a major tragedy."

UNMISS air patrols over the weekend identified thousands of armed Lou Nuer youths preparing to attack communities of the Murle tribe near Likuangole in Jonglei, the UN said.

On Sunday a group calling itself the Nuer Youth White Army issued a statement vowing to "wipe out the entire Murle tribe on the face of the earth as the only solution to guarantee long-term security of Nuer's cattle".

The group accuse the Murle of raiding Nuer cattle and killing members of their tribe since 2005, when a peace agreement ended two decades of civil war and led to South Sudan's independence in July this year.

Neither the UN nor South Sudan's former rebel army the SPLA have protected the Nuer, the group alleged.

"We the Nuer Youth have decided to fight the Murle, SPLA and the UN," it said.

Johnson said the primary responsibility for protecting civilians lies with the government in Juba, but UNMISS has reinforced its peacekeepers in Jonglei while conducting continuous air patrols to deter potential violence.

New weapons

Inter-communal violence has already affected "so many civilians," UNMISS said, calling for reconciliation.

"Time is now running out and the government needs to redouble its efforts to prevent a tragedy and avert large-scale violence. All South Sudanese people must now put peace and stability in their new and independent country above any other concerns and interests", Johnson said.

The UN had already raised an alarm in September over cattle raids that had left around 1 000 people dead since June, calling it a crisis that threatened to engulf the nation.

Johnson said at the time the raids involved "army-like" movements of people with new weapons and satellite phones.

"So this is not normal cattle rustling," she said.

Army spokesman Philip Aguer alleged that the assailants were armed and supported by Sudan.

Khartoum has also accused South Sudan of supporting rebels within its territory.

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