April 8, 2015 (BOR) – South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has ordered the return of cattle keepers in Central and Western Equatoria states to their home areas following concerns from agricultural farmers in both states over the destruction of crops by cattle.
In a decree announced on Wednesday on South Sudan Television (SSTV), Kiir cautioned both the Dinka and Mundari cattle keepers to return to their places with immediate effect.
The announcement came as farmers in both states were preparing to plant their crops.
In a three-days meeting that ended on Monday, communities in Jonglei state’s Bor county, which owned a large number of cattle camps in the Equatoria region, agreed to return their cattle to Bor.
During the meeting, Malual Machar, who represented youth from the various cattle camps in Western and Central Equatoria states, agreed to the return of cattle so that the youth can provide an extra force to defend their home villages from tribal attacks.
“It is a very good idea for us to return homes with our cattle. The chiefs and the elders from different clans should come to the camps and hold direct talks with the youth on how we should move with our cattle,” said Machar.
The cattle keepers fled to Equatoria more than three years ago seeking safe haven after enduring repeated attacks by suspected Cobra faction rebels backed by tribal raiders from the Murle.
A constant tit-for-tat cycle of raids by both Dinka and Mundari herders who had been sharing the pastures and water resources in Central Equatoria state has escalated in recent days.
At least two people were reportedly killed from Bor county’s Kolnyang payam (district) following attacks and counter-attacks between the Mundari and Dinka Bor herders between the Yei, Kejo-keji and Morobo counties
Bor county paramount chief Alier Aluong said during the meeting that once the herders fully returned with their cattle, the villagers who deserted their villages would have enough force to protect them as they are preparing to move back to the villages for farming.
“We will work hard to bring them back home. Once they are here, the criminals who steal cattle and abduct cattle will return and people will have significant confidence in terms of security as they prepare to go back to the villages for farming,” said Aloung.
The chairman of Greater Bor community and information minister, Micheal Makuei Lueth, warned his communities to take quick measures by returning their herders back to Jonglei state. Bor county community chairman Ajuoi Magot, as well as various intellectuals, also attended the meeting.
The return of cattle was among the issues that dominated the agenda at the meeting.
“When I told the youth to return to Jonglei in the past because of what I feel was going to happen to them, they asked me, if you are able to see things ahead, why did you not see the death of [SPLM founder] Dr John Garang ahead of time before he died?” said Lueth.
“Today I also feel that something bad will happen to them because the farmers in Central Equatoria are complaining about their farms being destroyed by the cattle, let them come back now otherwise,” he added.
However, there was no timeline from the community resolutions about when the chiefs, elders and intellectuals should hold direct talks with youth in the camps to make arrangements for their return to Jonglei.
Jonglei herders were forcefully returned to their places of origin was done four years ago by the South Sudanese army (SPLA), although some returned to the Equatoria region a few months later.