NAIROBI, Kenya — The death toll from the latest bout of cattle-rustling ethnic violence in South Sudan has reached more than 200 people.
Once again the dead are mostly women and children, after warriors with guns and spears attacked villages in Upper Nile state. This time it was the Murle who killed the Lou Nuer. In August last year it was the same. In January it was the Lou Neur killing the Murle.
The tit-for-tat killings started decades ago but have become increasingly violent and deadly thanks to the AK-47, which is a more efficient weapon than the spears, bows and arrows of the olden days.
Realizing that the violence is spiraling out of control, the government of South Sudan has begun a disarmament exercise in Jongeli state where most of the attacks have occurred (the most recent attacks happened in the neighboring Upper Nile but the state borders are pretty much non-existent to people on the ground).
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The South Sudan government has deployed 12,000 soldiers and police officers reckon there are 30,000 guns to collect.
This poses a new danger as pastoral groups living in South Sudan's harsh wilderness depend on their guns almost as much as their cattle and won't take kindly to outsiders — even ones in government uniforms who are trying to take them away. If the disarmament isn't handled correctly, the security forces will find themselves party to a new conflict.
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