South Sudan

UNMISS hosts peace event in Warrap, urges communities to opt for dialogue instead of conflict

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Community members attend a peace event held by UNMISS in Warrap, South Sudan. © UNMISS

MANYANG MAYOM To counter the effects of continuing tensions and outbreaks of intercommunal conflict in the greater Tonj area of Warrap state, UNMISS Civil Affairs recently organized a peace campaign in Ngapagok payam (administrative division) located in Tonj east.

The event, which included awareness-raising on peaceful reconciliation, the need for social cohesion and the role of the peacekeeping mission in building durable peace across South Sudan, was attended by hundreds of community members.

Most importantly, with seasonal cattle migration taking place across the world’s newest country, a focus for discussions and sensitization was the Marial Bai cattle movement agreement which was signed in November 2016.

Every year between January and April, cattle herders in the Tonj and Gogrial region move their animals to pastures near Wau. This annual migration of hungry cattle and their often-armed owners creates tensions with farmers in the area as cattle graze on farmlands. They also affect available water sources negatively. Such disagreements between herders and farmers have traditionally escalated into violent clashes and the loss of lives, a phenomenon that in November 2016 made pastoralists and farmers sign Marial Bai agreement, which was later revised in October 2017.

This agreement stipulates rules on how to resolve migration related conflicts, procedures for seeking permission to move cattle and what compensation should be paid for crops eaten and cows killed.

Since then, the mission’s Civil Affairs Division has been supporting the work of the interstate coordination committee in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Marial Bai agreement.

During the forum, community members were also encouraged to resolve disputes speedily and peacefully so that their areas can benefit from infrastructure development. “Our objective in coming here today is to encourage you to opt for dialogue to resolve any disagreements instead of resorting to violence,” said Joseph Ngoriakou, Civil Affairs Officer, UNMISS, as he addressed the gathering.

“All community members will benefit from the establishment of schools, hospitals and better roads,” continued Mr. Ngoriakou. “But for this to become a reality, all of you as community members must commit to peace. It is only then that speedy development will take place in all your localities.”

For his part traditional leader Chol Malok Deng revealed that the widespread prevalence of illegal firearms even among underage children has played a role in the fragile security situation across Warrap. “Guns cause great harm; they give the owner a false sense of invincibility during even a small argument. We need to make sure that our young people and children aren’t able to procure firearms easily,” he stated. Other issues raised by residents were lack of clean drinking water and increasing use of illegal substances.

“We are happy to attend this event and be able to talk freely about the problems we face in our communities,” said Mary Ayen, a resident of the payam.

“We are poor and when there is conflict, we suffer a lot. So, my request is for UNMISS to visit us more and continue raising awareness on how we can live peacefully with one another. Hopefully, this important lesson will resonate with every community member and we can look forward to a prosperous future without any violence.”