Around 47 people have been killed in tribal violence in South Sudan, the latest in a cycle of attacks that have displaced some 60,000 people in the new African nation, officials said Tuesday.

South Sudan became independent in July under a 2005 peace agreement with Khartoum to end decades of civil war. But the government has been struggling to end tribal and rebel violence killing at least 3,000 last year.

The violence broke out in the vast Jonglei state in December, when the Lou Nuer attacked settlements of the rival Murle tribe. Local officials have said as many as 2,000 people may have died, although U.N. officials say the toll is likely to be much lower.

Philip Thon Leek Deng, a local leader and member of parliament, said a youth militia from the Murle tribe attacked Duk Padyet in Jonglei late Monday, mostly killing young children, women and old people from the Lou Nuer tribe.

They did not take cattle. They were only coming for annihilation, Deng told reporters in Juba.

I'm appealing for quick measures to be taken by government of the state and national government to take forces to protect the old men and women who are there, he said.

The government and United Nations peacekeeper forces say they are struggling to protect communities in a vast area the size of Bangladesh with barely any road access.

Around 60,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Jonglei, where France's Total has a largely unused oil exploration concession, according to the United Nations.

Ravaged by decades of civil war killing 2 million people, South Sudan is one of the least developed countries in the world. The government is flush with oil revenues but analysts say development is getting only slowly underway.

We have not fought the war for our people to suffer and be traumatised at the time that we have independence, so we call for an immediate end to hostilities, member of parliament Deng Dan Den said.

(Reporting by Hereward Holland; Editing by Ulf Laessing)