Gai Bol Thong, who fled Sudan in 1995, helped raise $45,000 to support his community in South Sudan. Some say the money helped fund a violent raid on a neighboring community which killed thousands. Bol Thong says his community was just defending itself and that the money goes to support many needs.
A Sudanese refugee in Seattle says he led a fundraising effort for a tribe in South Sudan that is accused of massacring hundreds of men, women and children, as the world’s newest nation faces the prospect of a full-blown civil war.
Gai Bol Thong is the director of an organization called Nuer Youth of North America, which he said provides humanitarian support for the Nuer, one of the predominant ethnic/tribal communities of South Sudan, according to a report Friday in the Humanosphere global health blog.
The father of eight moved to the U.S. in 1995 after fleeing Sudan's 1983-2005 civil war, which killed millions, blogger Tom Paulson writes.
The Nuer, who mostly raise cattle for a living, are frequently in conflict over resources with another cattle-raising South Sudanese tribe, the Murle. "This goes back hundreds of years,” Bol Thong said.
The animosity between the two groups deepened last year, when the Murle attacked a Nuer community, killing hundreds of people, including women and children. Last month, the Nuer retaliated in a massacre that the United Nations, even with combat-ready peacekeepers, could do nothing to stop.
The raiders had even broadcast advance notice of their plans, according to a story published Thursday by the New York Times.
“We have decided to invade Murleland and wipe out the entire Murle tribe on the face of the earth,” the Nuer statement said. Aiding that effort was $45,000 that Bol Thong estimated that he helped raise from South Sudanese living abroad -- he said for the warriors' food and medicine.
“In the Nuer culture, you warn them ahead of time so they can remove the women and children,” Bol Thong told Humanosphere. “The Murle made genocide on us. We do not kill old people, women and children.”
News reports tell a different story.
The Times reporte that about 8,000 Nuer fighters attacked the village, leaving hundreds and perhaps thousands dead — including women, elderly and children. The United Nations had sent in 400 peacekeepers, but they were vastly outnumbered and unable to stop the assault.
The retaliation continues. Recently, the Murle struck back, killing 57 members of the Nuer tribe.
Bol Thang told Humanosphere that the conflict is complicated -- and South Sudan, which gained indepence only on July 9, has no police or government structure yet in place to enforce the laws.
He told Humanosphere that he sees no problem with raising money to support his tribe.
“I raised the money to support our community, to provide food and medical supplies,” he said. “Everybody already had guns.”
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