By Hon. Atem Garang D. Dekuek, Juba, SOUTH SUDAN
Abel ALier and Philip Aguer picture by Mach Samuel
February 3, 2017 (SSB) — The Triangle formed by greater Pibor, Akobo and Bor is an area afflicted with hostility, violence and cattle rustling among its inhabitants (Anyuak, Murle, Nuer and Dinka). The violence had been and is continuing to persist on, as a consequence of endemic poverty, possibly aggravated by climate change, inadequacy of population of livestock, obsolete agricultural methods and implements, weak local governments, possession of huge numbers of small automatic firearms, politicization and polarization of the inhabitants and inhospitable environmental conditions of the area! All these factors contribute to the instability of this region.
Following the end of the liberation war with the signing of the CPA in 2005, the area was left devastated, exhausted, impoverished and isolated that accelerated the intensity of violence and hostility.
The British colonial authorities in South Sudan in the twentieth century (1898-1956) were able to establish a strong local administration in the area and applied modern strategies to: stop violence, maintain peaceful co-existence and provide methods for sharing natural resources. The British authorities policy of “pacification”; was achieved by 1930 in this area. Native administration was introduced which was used strictly as an instrument for law provisions enforcement, utilized traditional local authority, where the chiefs plaid pivotal role, rendered some minimum social services, collected taxes from the inhabitants, and conducted programmed peace conferences of which all their resolutions were implemented without fail.
At the dawn of the independence of Sudan in 1956, the legacy that the British rule left behind was the stability and peace among the people of this area. Unfortunately, that stability and peace started gradually to unwind back to a state resemblance to the situation that was prevailing pre-British rule, where the violence and anarchy spun. In 1963 the Anya-Nya war intensified and engulfed the area and the local authorities begun to lose their grip on the communities. That situation was, somehow, reversed in 1972 when a peace agreement between the Sudan government and the Anya-Nya was reached in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, though the stability and peaceful co-existence did not attain the standards that preceded the independence of Sudan. The rest of the period from 1983 to this day is a contemporary history of deteriorating security and relations in the area and reverting to pre-British rule era. It is actually more chaotic and worse as the inhabitants had acquired a lot of modern automatic small firearms, which make the death toll to be very high and tragic. Also the communities during the last three decades had been antagonized and divided along opposing, hostile and warring political affiliations.
The paradox is that: when the British arrived in the area around 1900, there were no urban settlements, all were illiterates, none was professing Christianity among the inhabitants, but today there are large numbers of educated elite, many Christian converts and significant numbers, from the communities of this area are urban settlers, but in spite of those fundamental and positive social changes the violence, hostility, and conflict are increasingly creeping on and the area remains poverty trap!
The majority of the people of the area are rural settlers and with poor services if any. The culture of poverty is dominant, isolation of communities from each other; weak and inefficient government institutions, hostile and harsh environment and the political division; if all these challenges are analyzed, and workable approaches are identified to solving them; a permanent peace can be achieved within five-year plan and work.
- What are the roots causes of violence and instability in the area?
The British colonial rulers; in spite of the poverty they found and continued to exist in the area, left efficient, effective and progressive administrative setup in management and maintenance of peace and stability. The right question that we may ask ourselves is: what factors that agitate, feed, and keep hostility and violence flaring, raging and uncontrollable in the area? To answer this question we should try to look briefly into, economy, shared natural resources, local governments, environment, and social and cultural linkages of the communities in the area.
- Poor Economy:
There are two major economic activities that the people of this area depend on for their livelihoods mainly: (1) livestock (2) subsistent agriculture plus other minor economic activities; such as fishing/hunting, wild fruits/vegetables gathering, trade and support from urbanized relatives.
- The livestock in the area had been adversely affected by over three decades of devastating war and this had encouraged, those who had been seriously affected to intensify cattle rustling and child abduction as coping mechanism for survival. Difficulty in availability of good pastures (water and grass) during the dry season coupled with lack or limited veterinary services had contributed in reduction of the livestock population. Another dimension of the livestock of the area is the type of brand; is low in milk production and uncompetitive in meat marketing. Trade in hides had ceased as source of cash income in the area since 1965.
- Agricultural implements and methods have never changed for the last hundred years. The means of production are obsolete and primitive with climate change the produce from this activity in some years is meager and insignificant. Lack of accessible markets to purchase cereals during the hunger gap (June-August) period; puts more constraints on the population that forces some sections of them to look outside their localities to compensate the shortfall by consolidating cattle rustling and child abduction from neighbouring communities. The main dominant and staple crop in the area, is a verity of sorghum that is favourable to the climate of the area, it has very low yields and has no surplus or commercial prospects.
- The other economic activities, fishing, hunting, wild foods gathering and trade, are supplementary to the main major two activities mentioned above.
- Physical Isolation of Communities:
The communities of the area most of the time are physically isolated from each other due to environmental conditions of the area. The area during the rainy season is covered by creeping rain water and in dry season is difficult to obtain water unless at the edge of swamp or along rivers, absence of roads linking them and style of settlements dictated by history of violence and hostility, all these factors combined together do hinder free mobility and contact among the population. Pochalla, Pibor, Akobo, Waat, Ayod, Wuror, Duk-Payuel, Panyagoor, Gadiang, Bor, Gumuruk and Lekuangele all these urban centres, during the wet season, (May-December) are completely and effectively cut off from each other; this had been the case for the last century and kept the communities alienated from each other. This alienation supports perception that each community is an independent entity that has no common or shared interests with others. Furthermore, this isolation has negative impact on the relations between the communities as each community thinks that, the government is neglecting its area in terms of services while favouring others. In other terms this perception creates anger that is translated into violence and destruction of infrastructure of the other communities whenever hostilities erupt.
- Unbalanced Educational Opportunities and Services:
During colonial rule, there were few Bush Schools established by the Christian Missionaries in this area. Christianity and education were not welcomed in the area in the first three decades, but with time some communities embraced education while others discovered late that education was basic and essential. This late realization of the importance of education was accompanied by a feeling that some communities had “cheated” others and this created tribal envy.
The establishment of government centres in the region in the beginning of the twenty-century were initially military bases and social services were not provided in the first three decades until the “Pacification” Policy was achieved and this had a consequence and impact on the degree of provision of the social services as the area that accepted the government authority and pay taxes were provided with some services such as education. This had contributed in unbalanced provision of social services, education, health, water, and veterinary, hence the differences in educated elite among these communities.
- Harsh Environment:
The harsh and unfavourable environment of the area does play negative role as we have seen above, waterless dry season (December-May) swampy wet season (June-November). The government had not addressed such environmental conditions with comprehensive programmes covering all aspects of live in the area. Climate change possibly is adding more difficulties on the lives of the people, propelling and intensifying the contest over grazing land and water sources. The two extremities in the area are a extremely waterless period and extremely wet swampy season both are unfavourable to humans, animals and vegetation of the area, and do contribute in inadequacy of the population of the livestock. This situation does limit the agricultural production.
- Weak Government Institutions and Proliferation of firearms:
The communities have little confidence and respect for the government whether being, local, state or central. They had challenged the government military several times, as they thing the government is inefficient, ineffective, weak and unconcerned as being dominated by certain communities. The local chiefs and notables have lost their authority, prestige, social status and communal respect that they used to enjoy and now cannot mediate or resolve any serious problem. This erosion of the authority of the local chiefs was encouraged by the SPLA/M during the war and had not been re-fixed after the independence of South Sudan. Inter-communal communications between tribes is lacking and make the distance wider among the people and hinders rapid modernization in the area. The absence of the physical contact and lack of coordination between various government unites throughout the year in this region, adds more erosion on prestige and awe of the government in the minds of the population. It is reported that sometimes the government officials do collaborate with the criminals from the communities they are working among in cover up of hostilities they committed against their neighbours. The weakness of the government is manifested in proliferation of automatic small firearms in this area. The civilians possess huge numbers of automatic firearms and it is one element that is keeping the violence and hostility thriving.
- Hostile Politicization and Polarization:
The politicization and polarization of the local inhabitants, during the war and continued to be the case, this has its impact on the relations among the people of this area. During the war there were children taken to Ethiopia for education and later some of them ended up been resettled in the Western world and they are known as “Lost Boys” and this area has a sizeable number of this segment of population in diaspora specifically in the USA, Canada and Australia, this category is so sharply divided and use social media as the field of their tribal war; they have not utilized their acquired knowledge to discourage tribalism or propagate against culture of violence nor have they embraced the Western values and principles of peaceful co-existence, human rights, child rights and democracy so they are adding salt into the wound. This negative attitude and this tribal spirit embraced by the youth in the diaspora is a result, in my opinion, of the politicization and polarization of the population of the area during the last fifty years when the two wars of liberation were waged in South Sudan. The people of the area, were divided into: supporters of the Sudanese government and were referred to as militias and perceived as detractors of national liberation, on the other side there were supporters of the freedom fighters (Any-aya and the SPLA/M) that were considered as patriots and nationalists! This political divide was not addressed after the CPA or in the post-independent South Sudan. It should have been addressed as part of peace, reconciliation and healing in this volatile region. This is another element that keeps the violence and hostility thriving.
- Population Growth:
The population during the last five decades appears to have doubled, and possibly this growth seems to me, to have played, contributed or influenced the dominance of violence and instability in the region as there is no doubt it had probably impacted on the economy of the area. Some communities have a tradition that when a young age-set is been initiated their first activity to prove their manhood status is to raid the neighbouring communities, this with the population growth and limited resources fuel the violence and hostility.
- What are possible methods to mitigate the situation in the Area?
As outlined above, the area is facing many challenges that in my view do contribute and keep the violence and hostility spinning and thriving. But this vicious circle can be stopped if some serious developmental measures are taken and resources/finances are availed.
To bring peace and stability into the area, some of the methods used long time ago by the British authorities, to maintain peace and stability, are still relevant to our today’s situation. Now with assumption that we have some idea of what are the factors causing instability, violence, cattle rustling and child abduction, one may try to put sets of suggestions as way forward!
The prevailing poverty, harsh environmental conditions, weak and inefficient institutions of the government, politicized and polarized inhabitants and proliferation of small firearms have corroborated to aggravate the violence and hostility in the area, then there is need to suggest some short, medium and long term approaches to mitigate the problem. In my view the following approaches could be adopted as policies and programs aimed at achieving stability and peace to prevail in the area:
- Improvement of Livelihoods Approach:
- Introduction of modern methods and implements for agriculture;
- Establishment of agricultural extension units in all government centres for guidance and enlightenment;
- Introduction of new crops (cash crops new varieties etc.);
- Rebuilding of the old veterinary units as well as new ones, in all government centres;
- Introduction of horticulture for fruits production (not practiced in the area);
- Provision of free full veterinary services for two years,
- Introduction of modern methods of livestock management (e.g. interbreeding, zero-grazing, dehorning etc.), and introduction of poultry rearing;
- Revival of techniques of hides processing and marketing,
- Revival of certification of cattle moving out of administrative unit to another one, (ownership, numbers and vaccination, reason for movement etc.);
- Water harvesting in areas of Wuror, Waat, Gadiang, Lekuangele and Gumuruk)
- Revival of government responsibility in ensuring stock of sufficient quantities of grain in the markets before the rainy season;
- All livestock for sale must be transacted at legalized auction places, where official documents are issued;
- Reactivate or enact regulations for livestock movement and sale of cattle (use of branding of all cattle bought by traders for commercial purposes)
- In the swampy areas fishing has significant role in livelihood of those depending on this activity, so the government should assist in training in fish harvesting, processing, marketing and legislate in this aspect.
- Provision of Services Approach:
- Ensure that all children of school age all must be enrolled in the schools;
- Boarding schools for both buys and girls; (for leadership, team work, secure feeding, medical care etc. It is an indirect financial support to the families);
- If boarding schools are not possible for the time being, then every school child should be provided with one meal in the school;
- School girls should get special care in area of personal hygiene/clothing etc.;
- Training of teachers outside the area where they will interact with other teachers from across the nation;
- National Government to provide intensive midwifery training and curses both modern and traditional;
- Local authorities to enact local laws/regulations to formalize registration of births and deaths at all levels of the local administration;
- Application of the universal standards of primary health care;
- Digging of more boreholes for clean drinking water for human use.
- Political and Administrative Approach:
- The Transitional Government of National Unity should disseminate, propagate, promote the Peace Agreement as priority one among its activities in this region;
- All the parties to the Agreement plus regional and international partners should conduct, during this dry season, programmed meetings and well coordinated conferences with the warring parties in the region. Traditional leaders, chiefs and notables, from the areas under control of rebels should be permitted to come to government areas for meetings and conferences and allow civilians to move freely to government controlled areas;
- Train untrained administrative officers and give refresher courses to trained ones. Training should be conducted outside the region;
- The local government Act should be implemented comprehensively, by which the chiefs will regain their previous authority, mediation roles and social status;
- After achieving relative peace and stability in the area, a reconciliation and healing conferences should be conducted and all resolutions reached, should be implemented without hindrance; [the resolutions should include disarmament, destruction of all arms collected and payment of some incentives to guns owners];
- All the politicians, former army and militias commanders, chiefs and notables from the area jointly, should be facilitated by the Government to visit all the government centres to preach peace and the importance of peace and stability;
- Disarmament should be conducted after peace and reconciliation and to be executed in two phases with assistance from UNMISS, phase one: is the dissemination and circulation of the resolutions reached in the peace and reconciliation conferences plus registration of those in possession of guns; and phase two will be collection and surrendering of firearms and their destruction in presence of chiefs and the guns owners. UNMISS could play central role in this process! Payment should always go simultaneously with destruction of the arms.
- Developmental and Infrastructure Approach:
In order to bring the tribes out from solitude imposed on them by environmental conditions of the region, it is rudimental for the National Government to embark on urgent programmes and projects that aim at linking the tribes and interconnecting them to keep peace and stability and to easily communicate. This will encourage free peaceful movement of people, goods, government services/officials and humanitarian assistance. Connecting Pochalla and Akobo with the Ethiopian National road network, will generate and boost trade within the area. The National Government, therefore, should allocate special funds and implement construction of roads and bridges as follows:
- Construction of road that links Pochalla to Akobo-Waat-Ayod-DukPayuel;
- Simultaneous construction of road from Pochalla to Piobor-Gumuruk-Bor- Panyagoor-DukPayuel;
- Construction of roads that connect these highways with the other government centres in the region, (please refer to diagram);
- Setting up of water reservoirs to provide water for livestock and wildlife in the areas of: lekaungele, Wuror, Gumuruk, Waat and Gadiang;
- Establishment of veterinary units to provide services, training and introduction of modern methods of management of livestock;
- Establishment of agricultural facilities to provide guidance, training and new methods and implements;
- The government to rehabilitate and rebuild all the public facilities that were damaged or destroyed during 1983-2005 and 2013-todate. Being schools, clinics, bridges, roads, wells, police stations, rest houses, river ports terminals and rural council installations etc. this will restore confidence of the people in the ability, good will and intention of the government;
- Dredging of river Pibor, from Pibor town to its confluence with Baro River, Bahr al Zaraf and river Bahr Al Jebel from Juba to lake No.
- Humanitarian Approach:
- The displaced population in the IDPs and refugee camps should be repatriated back to the area, rehabilitated and resettled;
- Provision of food and other necessities till the time they are self reliance;
- Towns and villages to be surveyed, planed and modern styled settlement introduced and encouraged among the people of the area;
- Programmes be designed and funded for integration of the returnees into their original communities.
- There is need to have a joint assessment team formed from persons from the communities of the region, this will create awareness of the impact of the war and violence among the people and the justification why they should get assistance and support.
- Social and Cultural Approach:
The social change that had taken place in the area, during the last sixty years, is huge and extensive. The most significant social changes are:
- Education has become essential as food to the people and good numbers of the citizens of this region are well qualified but the number of educated women is still insignificant;
- Christianity has become the religion of the majority led by the elites, though the depth of convections to Christianity values and ethics is in doubt;
- Use of money has replaced livestock and barter system, maybe 50-75% of transactions are in money;
- Trade and employment have become a source of income, though limited;
- Exposure to the outside world through seasonal migration to urban centres (before1983) in search for temporary manual jobs, displacement or refuge due to war or natural calamity, and the influence of the Church, all had contributed to change the concepts, attitudes and resistance of the people to modernization;
- Some little urban settlement has taken roots with its incentives and advantages as well as some indignation disadvantages! (New adopted lifestyle).
In spite of all these social and cultural changes the violence continuous to persevere claiming more lives every single day in this area. In this approach I suggest that the government and the educated citizens of the area pursue the following:
- Establishment of Youth Centres well equipped to provide vocational training; modern sports, cultural exhibitions; music, singing etc.
- Establishment of well equipped centres for women activities, to provide training in needlework, tailoring, micro projects, sports, traditional handcrafts, childcare, sanitation and hygiene;
- The government to adopt a settlement policy that is aimed to influence the population of the area to adjust and modernize the way of their scattered settlements, which was dictated, over a century ago, by slave traders raids and avoidance of contingence diseases;
- Establishment of FM radio stations in local languages of the area, that shall coordinate programmes that aim to promote peace, common legends, shared traditions/customs, heritage and all values that emphasize oneness of the people of the region;
- The South Sudan Council of Churches or each denomination should formulate programs that facilitate the local churches to exchange preachers on agreed themes, occasions and places;
- The government should organize, programme and facilitate a joint enlightenment visits for outstanding chiefs and youth, women and religion leaders from among the communities to visit other communities within the area and inside South Sudan;
- Encouragement of schools competitions in the region; in all aspects (sports, literature, plays/drama, music, arts etc.);
- Seasonal Sports competitions in the region;
- All political parties, intellectuals, civil society, faith based, youth and women organizations should organize themselves and tour the area in teams and disseminate peace messages and the importance of stability;
- The government and its international development partners to initiate programme of translating all the laws of South Sudan in operation into local languages of the people of this region, and to conduct concentrated seminars for women, youth and chiefs/notables to explain in comparative method the traditions norms that are in contrast with or contradict the national laws.
- Encouragement of translation of each community adages into the other communities, this will create awareness of the wisdom of the other peoples.
In conclusion, we have outlined the historical background of the area and how the British colonial authorities established native administration that was used to bring peace and stability among the communities of the area. The violence and hostility returned after the departure of the British from South Sudan in 1956. The factors that cause the violence and hostility are combination of: prevalence of poverty, hostile environment, poor economy, weak government institutions, absence of roads connecting the communities of the area throughout the year, unbalanced educational opportunities and services. Also, it has been identified that the inhabitants of this region are politically polarized into hostile groups, while proliferation of firearms had aggravated the intensity of the violence among these communities. The remedies that we think could stop the violence and hostility and bring peace and stability in the area are: improvement of the livelihood, construction of roads linking the communities, disarmament, peace conferences, strengthening of the government institutions and provision of services.
I believe this approach, which emphasizes on peace through development, will bring permanent peace among the communities of the area: Anyuak, Murle, Nuer and Dinka.
Hon. Atem Garang Dekuek.
He is a member of South Sudan Transitional Legislative Assembly, Juba.
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