Residents of a swampy area in central South Sudan battled with cattle herders who moved in looking for water and pasture during the dry season, and at least 38 people were killed and 52 suffered gunshot wounds, officials said Thursday.
The fighting started Wednesday and tensions remained high Thursday night, with officials reporting “minor clashes” and apprehension over revenge attacks in the remote area.
The information minister of Warrap state, William Wol Mayom, said fighting took place in the Alor area, which is in Lakes state and borders both Warrap and Unity states.
Mayom said security forces had been sent to calm the situation and to move the cattle herders away from the disputed wet lands.
“The violence has been de-escalated, but minor clashes are still being reported in inaccessible swampy areas and casualties cannot be fully verified,” Mayom said.
A police spokesperson for Lakes state, Maj. Elijah Mabor Makuach, said 19 of the dead and 17 of the wounded were civilians from Warrap state and 19 of the dead and 35 wounded were from Lakes state.
Makuach said young herders from Warrap migrated to the Alor area with their cattle two weeks ago and began burning brush and the temporary shelters of residents. He said the herders were looking for pasture and water in the swampy lands of Alor.
The bloodshed came four days after at least 52 people, including a U.N. peacekeeper, were killed and 64 wounded by gunmen who attacked villagers in Abyei, an oil-rich region that is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan. Officials said that violence also arose from a dispute over land.
South Sudan won its independence from Sudan in 2011 after more than 39 years of war and then plunged into a ruinous internal conflict from 2013 to 2018 that stagnated development. Many guns remain in the hands of civilians who fought in the conflicts.