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Lafon County - 1 May 2023

Lafon County ambush death toll rises to 8

The local authorities in Eastern Equatoria State’s Lafon County have said the death toll of the weekend’s ambush in the Locharok area on vehicles transporting delegates from a peace dialogue has risen to eight.

On Saturday, armed men placed logs on the road to stop two humanitarian vehicles belonging to the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) before spraying them with bullets and killing four male passengers instantly.

On Friday, the state peacebuilding ministry and local authorities with support from NCA concluded a three-day peace dialogue between the warring communities of Locharok and Arilo (Lohitojo) in Imehejek. The two communities have for the last three years been counter-raiding cattle and involved in cyclic revenge killings.

Martin Ojok, the executive director in Lafon County, told Radio Tamazuj Monday that the four male passengers who managed to exit the car and flee to the bushes were pursued by their assailants and have since been confirmed dead.  

“Four people were killed in the vehicle but the ones who ran to the bush were chased by the armed youth from Locharok and killed. So, all together with those who were killed in the cars, the total is now eight people killed,” he said. “I have very few policemen and cannot go and salvage the situation and that is why I am requesting forces from Torit very urgently.”

The Eastern Equatoria State deputy police commissioner, Maj Gen. John Luny, however, said he was only aware of five people killed during the ambush on Saturday, and security forces are on the ground collecting concrete information.

“We are working to find out the root causes and how many people were killed and we have police in Imehejek. Our force is planning to go and see the conflict on the ground because we know only five people were confirmed dead,” he said. “We do not know how many of the people who fled to the bush are injured and or killed. Arrangements are in place to contain the situation.”

Gen. Luny called for calm and said the attackers are known and the law will take its course.

Meanwhile, Angelo James Ayonyang, an SPLM-IO lawmaker from Lafon County, expressed sadness over the killings despite the peace dialogue concluding successfully.

“During the dialogue, people were very happy and they vowed to reconcile and forgive but now we do not know what happened. It is shocking news to everyone because peace was signed,” he said. “It is very bad and we condemn the killings. The assailants should have respected the agreement they signed, it is discouraging.”

“We want the people who were killed to be buried and security should be beefed up to ensure the conflict does not escalate,” Ayonyang added.

For his part, Charles Onen Lokwaruk, the chairperson of the Civil Society Network in Eastern Equatoria State, also condemned the attack, calling it criminality and a rights violation.

“We call upon the government to take action, investigate and apprehend the culprits,” he said. “We would like to convey our condolences to the families of those who lost their dear ones,”