By Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol
March 2, 2012 — Cattle rustling, child abduction, culture of revenge and local politics among others are considered to be factors of the conflict in Jonglie state. Other international research centers like ICG attributed the conflict to lack of access to water and grazing areas, absence of roads and infrastructure, widespread food insecurity, land disputes and limited access to justice.
These factors culminated in the absence of means of livelihood for the majority of local communities; an economic problem which has forced members of various tribes to resort to cattle raiding and stealing, child abduction and theft, and pursuance of political appointments in the government institutions through intimidation and threat for rebellion.
There are livelihoods and cultural challenges that emanate from the” Culture of the cow” that relates to bride price and intermarriage, relates to reconciliation and payment of blood compensation (Dia) and, which relates to a cultural view of the cow and its social position within communities not only in Jonglei but in many states in South Sudan.
It is important to explore various opportunities that could stop the cattle rustling and child abductions in Jonglei and not just disarmament of the civilians. The root causes of the conflict must be investigated and analyzed to arrive at its magnitudes and dynamics through examining previous attempts to address the matter and why these attempts were unsuccessful. In addition, the project should endeavor to draw lessons toward broader application. The suggested mechanisms for upcoming solution should demonstrate as well how often overlooked aspects of local dynamics can create a paradigm of conflict that can only be overcome by unraveling the individual treads of root causes, local culture, and a changing political environment.
In Jonglei State, reports indicate many lives have been lost in the last five years. This has been mainly caused by cattle raids, children abductions and struggling over political power by the inhabitants of the region. However, these elements of the conflict are not only prevalent in Jonglei. The practices can virtually be said to be part of cultures of the majority of South Sudanese people. This does not mean that they are accepted, only that their continued existence despite myriad attempts to eradicate them indicates that there is a sign of something much deeper that requires research and exploration.
After one month of its independence, on 9th July 2011; South Sudan was ranked fifth on the Terrorism Risk Index (TRI) after Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. The new country replaced Palestinian territories which in 2010 were ranked on the TRI list as number five. Reuters, believes South Sudan got its rating primarily due to the intensity of terrorist attacks, with an average of 6.59 fatalities per terrorist incident, almost three times that of Somalia. Unfortunately this time, it is the tribe not organization that claimed position of terrorism which makes situation in Jonglei unique from the rest of the world.
Dinka, Nuer and Murle are known pastoral tribes whose economy and livelihood relied on cattle. However, the culture of abduction of children and incorporate them into different community none other than their own indigenous communities adds a new dimension to the entire conflict in the State. Many children have been reportedly abducted by Murle; some were abducted during fighting, when they lost their parents in action.
However, the Murle community continuously denied participation in the abductions and instead attributed the practice to the Dinka and Nuer parents whom they (Murle) frequently claimed the existence of transactions to sell children to them by their parents and later turn around and lodge complaints to the authorities after receiving a price/value of the sold child in form of cows.
It is unfortunate that Jonglei is considered a poor state despite its huge wealth in human and natural resources. According to the report on poverty published by the Southern Sudan Centre for Census Statistics and Evaluation in May 2010, Jonglei was ranked fifth poorest state in the country. It is one of a risky place in South Sudan in terms of human live. Many analysts believed the matter is no longer just a cattle rustling and child abduction but has grown wider to involve other political factors that are consistently associated with the struggle for political power in the State and the Centre.
Accusations and counter accusations from elites and leaders of these communities are continuously exchanged in Juba and Bor. Nowadays in Juba voices are loudly coming-up demanding division of Jonglei into three states; Murle and Anyuak demanding separate state, Nuer tribe to form a separate state and the third to the Dinka. However, the question still remains; will this division solve the problem? Its answer should come through critical examination of root causes of this deadly conflict. Also people are talking on another scenario which will be a failure all together, the creation of buffer-zone between these tribes and deployment of the UN troops to separate them. This option is impractical, and it has disadvantages more than advantages.
Inclusion it is important to address this conflict comprehensively for the following reasons; first, to stop the deadly cycle of violence, which is affecting the civil population in the state. Secondly, to demonstrate thoroughly all existing linkages, this can provide effective interventions by national and international actors. Finally, restoration of peace and stability and attainment of sustainable development in the state will be observed. Furthermore, the existing gap in the area of communal conflict resolution will be filled by using the same methods and techniques to arrest the situation not only in South Sudan but also in neighboring countries and beyond especially those states that are experiencing the same situation globally.
Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol is a senior member of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). He has held number of high level ministerial positions while serving in the then united Sudan prior to joining SPLM in 2007. Wol is currently the Chairperson of Employees Justice Chamber and a Member of the National Liberation Council (NLC), an upper organ in hierarchical and structural arrangement of the SPLM. He can be reached at [email protected]