At the beginning of every year, the nomadic people of Reziaghat in Sudan make the long journey south with their herds of cattle seeking water and places to graze in the areas around Aweil in South Sudan.
But with water resources becoming scarce in the dry season, this migration often causes significant tension and, at times, violent clashes between the cattle-keeping Reziaghat and Dinka Malual farmers who need the water for their crops.
To reduce tension, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) hosted a pre-migration conference between the groups in December, where they agreed on a series of resolutions and recommendations to encourage peaceful coexistence. The resolutions include ensuring that pastoralists entering South Sudan leave their guns behind and stick to designated routes for travel.
This week, UNMISS organized a follow-up rally in Rumaker, a payam in the eastern part of Aweil, to distribute copies of the agreement as a reminder of the commitment to peace.
“We are talking of peace, but water is the main issue,” said Mel Bol Mel, the deputy administrator of Rumaker. “These people come with their animals when there is a scarcity of water.”
He said that the most challenging period is April when the dry season is at its peak and is appealing to humanitarian organizations for assistance.
“This issue of water should be taken seriously because it is the cause of conflict,” said Mel Bol Mel.
While water access remains a challenge, the agreement between the groups has produced some positive results with youth producing agricultural products in Rumaker now selling their goods across the border in Sudan.
“Kerkede (a hibiscus flower drink) and groundnuts produced here are taken to Sudan for sale,” said Moris Lual Majok.
Women’s representative Atak Chan Bol said that intermarriage between the two communities would encourage people to live together in peace and she would like to see more women participating in the process to end intercommunal violence.
UNMISS representative, Mariama Dauda, called on the leaders of the two communities to share the content of the recommendations with their people so they can understand and implement the agreement during the migration period which lasts from January to June.