The death toll from inter-clan fighting in South Sudan’s Great Lakes region last week — a new source of violence in a country devastated by a four-year civil war — has reached at least 170, officials said on Tuesday.
The clashes in the province’s Malek County broke out after a group of young men from the Ruop ethnic group attacked rival youths from the Pakam group on Wednesday and Thursday.
Revenge attacks have since taken place.
Dharuai Mabor Teny, a member of parliament from the region, updated an earlier death toll of 45.
“Right now, from both sides, we have 170-plus people who lost their lives. 342 houses have been burnt and almost 1,800 people displaced,” Teny told Reuters.
The violence prompted the government to declare a three-month state of emergency in the region and surrounding areas on Monday. The military has also been ordered to deploy troops to quell the unrest.
Shadrack Bol Maachok, the regional government’s spokesman, said the widespread availability of arms complicated efforts to control the conflict.
“Those arms in the hands of the civilians are going to be taken away and heavy forces are going to be brought here,” he told Reuters.
The UN mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, said its troops were helping remove roadblocks mounted by the clashing groups in a bid to open up routes for movement and trade.
South Sudan was plunged into war in 2013 after a political disagreement between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar escalated into a military confrontation.
The fighting has killed tens of thousands, uprooted about a quarter of the population of 12 million people, and left its small, oil-dependent economy moribund.
Violence between rival communities is common in parts of South Sudan, often triggered by quarrels over scarce grazing land and cultural and political grievance.