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“A lot of very well-armed men will be very upset if they don’t get their salaries,” said the Enough Project’s Ms. Christian.

The government is also reluctant to cut the size of the army at a time when it faces internal as well as external security threats.

Tribal conflict in east

In Jonglei, the country’s eastern and largest state, hundreds of civilians have been killed in a dispute between the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes.

Cattle, the lifeline for the local economy, are at the heart of the dispute as both sides routinely steal each other’s livestock.

Over the weekend, Murle cattle raiders from Jonglei attacked the Lou Nuer in neighboring Upper Nile state. More than 200 people were reportedly killed.

In a dangerous development, armed Nuer youths have mobilized under the banner of the so-called “White Army,” which also could threaten stability.

The government has deployed its troops in Jonglei to disarm the warring groups. Tribal leaders and analysts say putting a disarmament campaign before peace increases the potential for more bloodshed.

“If the government tries to forcibly disarm the groups, it will result in the killing of many innocent civilians,” said Gai L. Ngundeng, a grandson of a prophet revered by the Nuer.

“If they try a forceful disarmament today, they will face the consequence tomorrow. I can take this country to civil war,” warned Mr. Ngundeng, who claims to have a large following because of his ancestry.

South Sudanese officials are unfazed by such threats.

“Disarmament is a must,” said Mr. Machar, the vice president.

The government has little control in Jonglei, and residents are particularly angry about the lack of development in their state.

“Until now, the government hasn’t done any development in our area. How will they go to collect the arms? We don’t even have roads,” said Mr. Ngundeng.

The violence has displaced thousands of civilians. Fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan has also sent more than 100,000 refugees streaming into South Sudan.

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