JUBA, South Sudan – Leaders of a minority community said South Sudan troops shot and killed a teenager on Friday while he was fishing, linking the death to the military's disarmament campaign in a conflict-torn state.
Aid groups and community leaders say the disarmament campaign has provided cover for South Sudan troops to rape, torture and kill members of the minority Murle tribe in remote Jonglei state.
On Friday, the military's spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer, told a news conference that the disarmament campaign has been successful and that any reports to the contrary are "biased."
The disarmament campaign has collected more than 10,000 weapons, and Aguer argued that it has been peaceful "compared to the period before disarmament, when the people were killing themselves in thousands and hundreds."
In December and January, Jonglei was engulfed by a series of cattle raid attacks between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities in which hundreds were likely killed. The raids were launched by the so-called "White Army" of the Lou Nuer in retaliation for a Murle attack last August that killed at least 600 Lou Nuer.
Cattle raiding has been a source of conflict in Jonglei for generations, but an influx of AK-47s from the Sudanese civil war has made the raids more deadly. The most recent raids prompted the government to launch its fifth disarmament campaign in six years.
Community leaders and aid workers say the current campaign calls into question the government's ability to protect the small Murle tribe from abuses being committed by the southern military.
Aguer dismissed allegations that the abuses are widespread. He said the few cases attributed to southern forces were due to "indiscipline and drunkenness." Aguer said special courts set up to deal with disarmament abuses had received 25 cases of abuse and that only five were attributed to soldiers.
"The SPLA has called court martials for those cases," Aguer said, referring to the Sudan People's Liberation Army.
Joshua Konyi, the commissioner of Pibor county, which is the home of the Murle community, said a teenage boy was killed Friday morning while fishing in a river. According to Konyi, the boy — who was unarmed — was shot six times by soldiers.
"They are killing people with no reason," said Konyi.
Aguer said he was unaware of the incident but that it should be raised with state authorities.
Peter Guzulu, a member of the Murle community, said the bodies of two other people shot by troops were found on Friday, bringing the overall death toll of Murle during the disarmament campaign to at least 14.
Since South Sudan broke off from Sudan in July following an independence vote, Jonglei state has been a nexus of conflict in South Sudan. Besides the ethnic clashes, the state has been home to the armed insurgencies of two former generals from the southern military.