South Sudan: Jonglei village in deadly 'cattle attack'

A South Sudanese boys herds cattle in Jonglei state (Archive shot)
Image caption Owning cows is a vital element of wealth for many communities in South Sudan

At least 41 people have died in an attack by armed men on a village in South Sudan's Jonglei state, notorious for ethnic fighting and cattle raids.

Jonglei State Governor Kuol Manyang told the BBC that many of the dead were women and children who were burnt alive when they tried to hide in their huts.

Those who escaped blamed members of the Murle ethnic group and said they took cattle away with them.

Insecurity is one of the big problems facing newly independent South Sudan.

Deadly cycle

Mr Manyang said two columns of armed men had approached the village of Jalle on Monday afternoon and started shooting.

One baby was killed by a machete during the attack, he said.

The village's remote location, about 65km (40 miles) from the state capital, Bor, means news of the attack came out slowly.

The governor speculated that the attackers might have walked for four days from their homeland to carry out the raid.

He also said some of the survivors were chasing after the attackers, and there would almost certainly be more fighting.

Owning cows is a vital element of wealth for many communities in South Sudan.

Cattle rustling has become a way of life for some.

It is very difficult to stop incidents like this in South Sudan. The roads are often very bad, making it hard for security forces to move about.

Decades of civil war mean many civilians are armed and the need for revenge following cattle raids often fuels a deadly cycle of violence.

In August more than 600 people were killed in a single day in Jonglei state in clashes between members of the Murle group and the majority Lou Nuer.

The authorities, the UN peacekeeping mission and religious groups are trying to convince all sides not to resort to violence.

Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.

Satellite image showing geography of Sudan, source: Nasa

Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Map showing Ethnicity of Sudan, source:

Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.

Map showing infant Mortality in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.

Map showing percentage of households using improved water and sanitation in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.

Map showing percentage of who complete primary school education in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.

Map showing percentage of households with poor food consumption in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.

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