South Sudan

UNMISS embarks on series of peace dialogues to avoid conflicts during the seasonal cattle migration

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MANYANG MAYOM/FILIP ANDERSSON

Dry season in South Sudan means that a large number of herders and their thousands of cattle migrate in search of water and new pastures. To minimize the related conflicts that occur, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan has embarked on a series of peace dialogues in affected areas, most recently in Tonj South in Warrap State.

“Please, do not let your cows destroy our crops. We [farmers] are ready to share the resources that exist with you in a peaceful way,” said Wol Ngong Uchala, a resident of Bab-Chok in the Malual Muok area, addressing the cattle keepers in attendance and praising the peacekeeping mission for bringing stakeholders together.

He and approximately 200 others, including youth, women and local leaders from Bab-Chok and Mabior Yar have gathered in the latter location to discuss how to make the ongoing cattle migration season as peaceful as possible for herders and farmers alike. The aim is to agree to solving any conflicts over scarce resources that may still arise by means of dialogue rather than violence.

Conflicts caused by the annual cattle migration are common in Warrap State and neighbouring Western Bahr el-Ghazal State. Cows sometimes eat or destroy the crops of farmers, who may in turn react by killing the cattle. To reduce tensions, a number of rules, the Marial-bai agreement, were set in 2017 and reviewed in 2019. The provisions include that compensations are due for destroyed produce and killed animals.

In both Mabior Yar and in Thiet, where locals welcomed their neighbours from Wanh-Alel, speakers from the pastoralist and farming communities alike reiterated the need for free movement and harmonious relations to prevail throughout the Tonj area. To avoid a breakdown of the rule of law, they believe that the government needs to disarm all civilians.

“In the past, humans would run for safety from lions attacking them. These days, humans run for their lives because of other humans. They have guns and kill each other. It must stop. Let there be reconciliation, let us stop these problems from happening,” said Kerubino Mayar, a cattle keeper from Tonj.

As previously reported on this website, the UN peacekeeping mission is contributing to minimize tensions and violence not only by means of organizing dialogues between neighbouring communities but also by being part of joint integrated police forces in particularly conflict-prone areas.

A mobile court able to quickly try cases that cannot be solved amicably, also logistically supported by UNMISS, is scheduled to be set up in Wau. It is hoped that establishing such a court will also increase accountability and deter potential violators of the resolutions agreed upon.