South Sudanese army spokesman has said that clashes between soldiers and civilians have left 127 people dead.
Major General Lul Ruai Koang disclosed this on Tuesday August 12, 2020, during a press briefing.
Koang stated that the fighting ensued on Saturday August 8, 2020, following a disagreement between the security forces and the civilians over the disarmament exercise in Tonj town, the central part of the country.
The security forces attempted to disarm the civilians in the area, which has been faced with deadly-communal clashes.
In the absence of a functioning government, many communities in the area are in possession of dangerous weapons, citing self-defence and protection against cattle raid as a justification of their action.
The violence in Tonj began after several armed youth got into a disagreement with soldiers and resorted to armed confrontation with security forces, according to Koang.
He added that an initial armed confrontation was brought under control, but the youth mobilised others for an attack on the army position.
“On the latest, the number of those killed, I can confirm to you that it rose to 127. While 45 security officers died from the clashes, the remaining 82 deaths were among the youth from the area,” Koang said.
He added that 32 soldiers sustained injuries from the fight.
Officials from the security forces confirm that the two military officers involved in ‘triggering the clashes’ have been arrested as situation has returned to normal in the troubled area.
The six-year civil war in South Sudan left about 380,000 dead and millions displaced; therefore, disarmament has been a major concern since then.
Experts have cautioned against disarming people without proper planning, as communities may fear that their protection is not guaranteed after their weapons have been confiscated.
“The clashes should be an opportunity to rethink the approach to disarmament. What is the point of removing guns without addressing what drives folks to arms themselves?” Head of the Southern Sudan Action Network on Small Arms Geoffrey Duke said on Twitter.