Koko and his wife Akuer Alan lost everything in the recent dramatic escalation of ethnic violence in newly independent South Sudan. Up to 8,000 armed Lou Nuer youths came to his village of Tangyang, near Gumuruk, killing civilians and taking cows, women and children belonging to the Murle with them. The attackers were eventually driven back by the army on reaching Pibor town, where authorities had stationed troops to protect the local administration.
But elderly Alan lost his entire livelihood as up to 80,000 heads of cattle were taken as prizes in this deadly assault, while revenge attacks to recover loved ones and livelihoods have already killed an estimated 140 people.
“I lost all my cows - they took all my cattle - I had about 500,” he told IRIN.
“Now I am here because of food, and I’m staying here [Gumuruk] because I don’t know what to do now.
“I saw many people, children and women, being killed. They have taken cows, they have abducted women and children. Many people were killed.
“They were shooting people, and if they got old men like me, they were slaughtering [them] - that is how they were killing.
“I was about to be killed - some of my children took me and hid me, that’s why I survived.”
Holding a young baby, Akuer said the fate of the minority Murle group now rested in the hands of aid agencies and authorities.
“Our survival now depends on the food brought to us. It took about two weeks to get here - we’ve been living off the wild fruits from these trees.
“When I was running, I saw some families losing children. I ran with some kids, and my husband helped me, but up to now there are some children we have not [rescued].
“I can’t tell if I will be safe to go back - maybe God will know.
“I need something to eat, clothes, things for cooking, jerry cans for getting water, even medicines for children who are getting sick.
“If the government can protect us, we will be ok, but we have lost most of our property.
“Our survival now depends on the food brought to us.
“If there is food we will survive, and saucepans and clothes, something to cover us.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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