By Chol Makol Riak
Authorities in the South Sudan’s Greater Pibor Administrative Area said two people were killed and seven children went missing after armed forces from neighboring Ethiopia invaded Jebel Boma County.
The Chief Administrator of the Greater Pibor Administrative Area Lokali Amea said the attackers crossed from Ethiopia’s Gambella region late Friday and set the entire village of Nyalongoro on fire.
“This group came and they belong to Ethiopia in the region called Gambella—police, prison service all of them—they are organized forces. They came to Pochalla and from there went to a place called Raat and then crossed the river to our side of South Sudan. They came to Nyalongoro where there is wildlife service and they found some civilians and they shot at the civilians and burned the house and killed 2 people,” Amea said.
Chief Administrator Amea condemned the attack on South Sudanese civilians, calling it a violation of South Sudan’s territorial integrity.
“If you attack civilians and civilians, sometimes put the law in their hands, so later on if they are going to take revenge, who is going to be responsible, the people from Greater Pibor or the government of South Sudan? They were supposed to report to the government like that time they sent delegates to Juba and they were told that we will form a committee and we will meet so we can talk and now they have decided on their own to attack the civilians,” Amea added.
Elisama Daniel is the executive director of ACROSS, an interdenominational Christian organization based in South Sudan. Daniel confirmed there was an attack in Jebel Boma.
“I know there was an issue in Boma but I don’t have the latest. I was just checking the emails and I did not get the update on what is happening now. I left on the weekend and I don’t have an up-to-date news on who exactly is attacking,” Daniel said.
Temesgen Tehale, the head of public diplomacy and economic affairs at the Ethiopian Embassy in South Sudan, says he has not yet received official communication regarding the incident but says Ethiopians cannot invade South Sudan as the two countries have good relations.
“Ethiopia and South Sudan are good neighbors so Ethiopia by any means cannot and would not violate the integrity of South Sudan. I can assure you that organized Ethiopian forces cannot cross to the South Sudanese border and engage in any kind of killings unless it’s some anti-peace elements who are trying to operate over the border,” Tehale said.
Tehale said Ethiopia and South Sudan have been working to prevent scenarios under which communities living along the two countries’ common border would attack each other.
“There was a scenario in 2016 that happened, the Murle crossed to the Ethiopia border and abducted some children and took some cattle over there. To avoid such incidents, as far as I know, the two counties’ governments are working in collaboration to avoid such not to happen. It’s been a month since the Ethiopian house of people’s speaker visited Juba. Among the delegation there were neighboring regional governors from Ethiopia with the speaker. They held talks on the ways to manage such incidents, so there is engagement between the two sides,” Tehale added.
In 2016, Ethiopia’s military said it entered South Sudan and surrounded certain villages to search for more than 100 children who were abducted by armed young men from the Greater Pibor Administrative Area after they attacked villages in Ethiopia’s southwestern Gambella region.