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Kajo Keji County - 3 Feb 2023

Over 20 killed by suspected armed Dinka Bor pastoralists in Kajo Keji County

At least 20 civilians were reportedly dragged out of their homes and gunned down in Lire Payam in Central Equatoria State’s Kajo Keji County by armed pastoralists suspected to be from Bor in Jonglei State on Thursday morning, officials said.

Speaking to Journalists on Thursday, Dr. Paul Yugusuk, the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church’s Central Equatoria Internal Province, said the incident happened on Thursday morning. He said two women and 18 men were among those killed.

“I would like to express my deepest sadness over the murder, the barbaric killing of 20 civilians in Lire Payam. This incident happened this (Thursday) morning and we lost two women and 18 men” he said. “Just the day before on Wednesday, we held a peace and reconciliation meeting in Kajokeji and we had delegations from the central Equatoria State and Jonglei State who visited Kajokeji. The Joint committee comprised the Central Equatoria State security advisor and the chairperson of the Jonglei State peace commission and peace advisor and for us to only hear this morning about this incident.”

Archbishop Yugusuk urged Pope Francis to pray for the country and the families of the Kajo Keji killings.

“This incident comes at a time when we are going to receive our pope but unfortunately our people are killing our civilians. I, therefore, request Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland to pray with the families and relatives of those who were killed,” he said.

The Archbishop condemned the incident and urged the government to bring the perpetrators to book.

“We want to condemn this barbaric killing of our civilians and I call upon the government and President Salva Kiir Mayardit to intervene immediately to protect our people and to bring those who have committed this act to book,” Yugusuk said.

On his part, the Central Equatoria State information minister, Dr. Andruga Mabe Saveria, in a statement Thursday said the leadership of the state condemned the latest attack in Kajo Keji by armed Dinka Bor herders.

“Today, 2 February, the people and the Government of Central Equatoria State woke up to the saddest news of renewed bleeding of Kajo Keji County following the massacre of innocent unarmed civilians at Likamerok Boma in Lire Payam,” the statement read. “The cattle herders conducted a savagery house-to-house murder of innocent unarmed civilians as a sheer revenge attack after an unknown armed group assaulted their camps in a hit and run mission which led to the death of both cattle herders and their animals this (Thursday) morning at 5 am.”

Minister Mabe said Governor Emmanuel Adil called upon the people of Kajo Keji to remain calm as security agencies are in control of the situation and are working to apprehend the perpetrators of the heinous act.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Kajo Keji Community Organization (KCO), Aggrey Tisa Sabuni, qualified that there is no fighting in Kajo Keji County but that the armed pastoralists from Bor killed innocent civilians in cold blood.  

“There is no fighting in Kajo Keji but the area has been overrun and occupied by members of the Dinka Bor community over the last year and they flooded the county with thousands of cattle guarded by heavily armed cattle keepers. They proceeded to seize all the cattle, goats, and chickens owned by the local people and used local farms as grazing fields for their animals. If you resist them, you become a victim,” he said. “What happened on Thursday morning was that the Dinka Bor cattle keepers went on a rampage and began shooting residents in their homes from 5 am and it continued through the day. By Thursday evening, 21 people were confirmed killed and 19 of the bodies were collected and taken to the county headquarters and the body of one woman was last evening discovered in a bush.”

He added: “So, 19 young men, a woman, and a child were killed bringing the total to 21 people gunned down in cold blood.”

Tisa said the whole population is in shock, grief, and pain.

“There is no fighting but it was just a massacre and we have not seen any reaction or action from the government, not even a statement,” he lamented.  “We thought that after attaining independence, South Sudan should embark on building the nation, fighting poverty, eradicating illiteracy, improving health services, and more. This is what South Sudanese should be doing for themselves and not fighting and massacring each other for no reason.”