12 February 2016 – Freedom of movement has been increasingly restricted in a South Sudanese village as the community is grappling with a range of security problems.
Local leaders of Kudwo Boma, a village 25 kilometers southeast of Juba, cited recent deadly incidents related to outside cattle herders, a long-lasting border dispute between two communes, and landmines throughout the region. A variety of issues were presented when a civilian team from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) visited the village with a population of 1,700 people.
The UNMISS team, composed of members from the Mission’s Civil Affairs, Public Information and Gender Affairs Sections, sat down with nearly 20 residents to discuss how local communities could best live together in harmony.
According to the local leaders, cattle that another tribe had brought from other states to the nearby bushes have become a trigger for tensions. In a recent incident, a 28-year-old local man has been shot dead as he witnessed armed men stealing 50 cows from a shrub that belonged to the Dinka tribe.
“The gunmen were afraid that the young man will report them to local authorities so they shot him on the spot,” a resident explained.
The people of the Lokiliri area are farmers and need to go out to the bushes in the vicinity for their farming activities. But security issues outside their community have limited their daily chores, and the restricted access to the bushes has caused food shortage.
“People are afraid of violence and nobody wants to go outside to the bushes and collect firewood. Nobody is able to move freely. What will you do? We just need to stay here. Our food is coming from our bush and what food are we getting now?” one of the community leaders said.
Justin Tombe Ruben, Chief of Kudwo Boma, explained the community’s effort to stay within the safe zone and make their living. “We are now cutting some young trees just for firewood to minimize the issue of insecurity.”
Ruben is calling for the government to step in. “The only solution is for the Government of South Sudan to bring some security forces to come and guard the people around here so that there is no invasion in our farm lands. If UNMISS can ask the government for us, that would be good,” Ruben said.
A border dispute has also heightened tensions. The village chief described the land boundary issue between Kudwo Boma and its neighboring village, Lomer Boma. The two villages have been discussing the demarcation over four years but haven’t found a solution.
Additionally, landmines and abductions have been major security threats throughout the Lokiliri area. The UNMISS team took note of the problems that were brought up at the gathering, especially the fact that residents can’t move freely even though a local military base is situated within walking distance.
Francis Kabosha, UNMISS Civil Affairs Officer, said that the Civil Affairs team will continue to engage with the local communities and get the bigger picture of the issues in the region.