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Juba City/Kajo Keji/Bor - 4 Feb 2023

5 pastoralists killed, 6 injured in Kajo Keji attack which prompted revenge killings

The Bor County Commissioner, James Tuor Kur, has said that the information they got while on a peace mission to Kajo Keji is that Thursday’s killings of 21 locals by pastoralists from Bor were instigated by an early morning attack on a cattle camp the same day.

The official told Radio Tamazuj Friday that he was on a peace mission to Kajo Keji with other officials from Bor and two officials and state and national parliamentarians from Central Equatoria State.

“The Jonglei State government sent me, the state minister of peacebuilding and the human rights advisor. From Central Equatoria, there was the peace-building minister and security advisor,” he said. “We went to Kajo Keji to ensure that there is peace between pastoralists and the local community. So, we went for peace and that was from 31 January to 2 February. We held a big meeting attended by the pastoralists and the local communities so that they coexist in peace.”

“We told them that cattle and people should not be killed and cattle should not be grazed in farmlands,” he added.

Commissioner Tuor however said some local criminals attacked pastoralists in a cattle camp at 5 am on Thursday and killed 5 and injured 6 people.

“We heard this report when we were still in Kajo Keji and that same day, we heard that the herders pursued the attackers and on their way met an old man who they questioned about the whereabouts of the attackers,” he said. “The old man pointed to a settlement where he said the attackers came from and had discussed attacking the cattle camp the previous night. So, the pastoralists went there and started fighting with the locals, some of who fled. So, this is what we were told happened.”

“It was revenge for the attack on the cattle camp,” he added.

According to Tuor, during the peace meetings, the pastoralists repeatedly said they had no problem with the people of Kajo Keji but that there were criminals in the area who steal their cattle and sell them in Uganda and that recently their cattle were gunned down while grazing.

“We also told the pastoralist to move towards Juba and move back home to Jonglei State and they agreed. So, our meeting ended on a good note. The pastoralists only raised a concern and said they were afraid that they would be ambushed along the way.  They asked for a force to escort them because it is a long journey,” he said. “My message to the Dinka Bor herders in Kajo Keji is that they should leave the area and return to Bor. I told them this during our meeting and will repeat it. They should leave Kajo Keji.”

The Bor commissioner also called the people of Kajo Keji to stop ambushing people along the roads and attacking people in cattle camps because this is what causes revenge attacks.

“This unfortunately leads to loses on both sides,” he said.

Commissioner Tuor’s narration was corroborated by a Thursday press release by Kajo Keji Commissioner Phanuel Dumo Jamein in which he said that the killings by the herders followed an attack on their camp.

“The cattle herders went on the random killing of innocent civilians in vengeance for the attack on their cattle camp at around 5:30 am (Thursday) leading to the death of 6 cattle herders and 48 cattle by unknown assailants,” he wrote.

Relatedly, the South Sudan Red Cross (SSRC) in a media statement on Friday said four of the locals killed by pastoralists in Kajo Keji were the organization’s volunteers in the area.

“The SSRC learned about the killing of four Red Cross volunteers in Kajo Keji on Thursday morning,” the statement signed by the SSRC Secretary-General John Lobor read. “The volunteers who have been part of the team in the Kajo Keji unit were picked from their houses and callously killed.”

Lobor condemned the killing of the humanitarian workers.

“We have learned with shock and sadness the killing of four Red Cross volunteers and community members,” Lobor said. “We condemn this act of killing humanitarian workers and call on the authorities to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”

He called on armed actors to respect the Red Cross and other humanitarian workers who tirelessly assist people in need across the country.