The Herdsmen Raiding Mentality: A Trapped Angle of Death in Dinka & Nuer Communities

Posted: September 6, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Awet Maker, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Awet Benjamin Maker, Beijing, China 

Nuer white army

South Sudan Rebels: Nuer White Army Fighters

Thursday, September 06, 2018 (PW) — The claim that recurrent raiding & killings attributed to Dinka and Nuer herdsmen in parts of the country are perpetrated by lack of government concrete measures on illegal firearms possession by civilian is not entirely new. Some government functionaries including a former Inspector-General of Police IGP, Hon. ALEU AYIENY had fingered to Rumbek herdsmen taking advantage of country’s insecurity created by December 2013 war within to infiltrate the country for the rising spate of cattle raiding and killings among themselves. He made angry remarks when police forces who were taken there felt in heavy clashes with cattle keepers of which several were killed, dozens wounded and scattered many in the bush.

Those who canvass this viewpoint are quick to point to the traditional stick-wielding, harmless and itinerant Nuer and Dinka especially, AGAR of current Western Lakes, GOK of current GOK state, Yirol of current Eastern Lake, REK of current TONJ state and greater BOR among other herdsmen of the past as being against the cultural heritage and productive way of cattle-keeping /herders as evidence of the penetration of the ranks of the slogan “game of fittest” is at the fore play. I’m speaking of the empty houses as their male child or husbands might have been killed, hundred herds of cattle taken, their shelters burned to ashes, children displaced from school etc.

If the purpose of this conjecture is to absolve pastoralist communities or herdsmen of complicity in the killings, it should have gone further to establish on which basis are these bandits allowed to continue fighting for? Failure to establish that did incurable damage to whatever purpose it was meant to serve the armed youth in pastoralists’ communities. More wealth and lives gone in greater Lakes. A perfect example is my own community. It’s estimated that over three thousand herds of cattle is gone and the community is completely weeded of its strong youth as another just followed yesterday with over one thousand cattle raided by the youth believed to be coming from Western Lakes.

 This story might be the same in Tonj, Warrap, Bor, and Upper Nile, just to mention few but far worse in the case of (Lakes). “Gun may give you freedom but the same gun can be use to take away your freedom”. It is difficult to fathom how the excuse would be of help when all indications show that you are on a trapped angle of extinction. Even the fish in the river sometimes know the string attached to hook and opted to refuse swallow it, hence changed the direction of swimming.

Having identified those responsible for the killings without being brought to book, increases of chances of depopulation and destruction of lives and properties by others that see to it as unfurnished game, the maximum expectation was for the government to take decisive action to flush out those who seek refuge in the land of other communities in which they are voluntarily accommodated and opted to betray that hospitality by killings and raiding in returns. There is no doubt to this fact because several evidences had demonstrated it before.

Government issued disarmament orders in Greater Lakes and part of Bahr El Ghazal but that has failed to happen in Tonj, Western Lakes, as the killings have continued unabatedly in the disarmed Gok State and Pakam of Rumbek North County threatening the very existence of these communities in their own country because the same government suddenly became so deaf and doomed to question other state authorities of their “gospel speed of tortoise” to disarm their civilian.

Perhaps before disarmament, their guns gave them freedom but as they obeyed the law to hand over their guns to the government, the same guns were used and still being used as we speak today by other state and communities to take away their lives and freedom. It is cloudy the objective meant to be served by constant recourse to claims that those who kill our citizens; despoil their communities rendering them refugees in their own country is governments that really lack follow up of orders.

Even though we are being made by desperate situations surrounding our communities to buy into this claim, still farmers who bear the brunt of the attacks are not under any illusion of protections as to the identity and promptings of those who attack and despoil their socio-economic life in villages. Other hard working men and women on farms or other ways of hunting better life are being exposed to hunger and starvation because they can no longer go about their usual businesses due to insecurity.

Some years back, attempts have been made to present these attacks in the mould of communal clashes. The authorities toed this perilous line when described the killings as a consequence of communal clashes that do not value their lives and listen to themselves. How I wish to borrow my heart to all cattle youth of greater Lakes, Bor , Upper Nile and beyond to realize the motive behind and put to an end the “gun-cattle raiding/ killings business” I believe the leaderships will later tender apology when put to task in the upcoming elections to those communities devastated by this conflagration.

What should be of relevance is not whether the killers are from Agar, Gok, or Tonj herdsmen or their local counterparts since they share cultural, linguistic and tribal affinities with some other communities. Of essence is the therapeutic effectiveness of measures taken by the government to tame the scourge. And each time this excuse is proffered, the impression one gets is that the leadership of this country is rationalizing its failure to maintain law and order. Perhaps, that is why the scourge has festered.

The same foreboding rationalization was again at play when authorities spoke of the clashes between communities of greater Lakes “are now made worse by the influx of arms and ammunitions into the hands of civilian. From where? The same government has the answer, but sociological and economic even as they blamed “irresponsible politics” for the lingering crisis made the country shivering of her protectionism.

The quantum of security information at the disposal of the president cannot be underestimated. When he said that clashes between civilian are made worse by the influx of arms and ammunitions especially those fleeing from the crisis,  I quickly thought of Agar-Rum who were last year displaced to Abiriu County of Gok State, and Pakam of Rumbek North County to Yirol,  among others in Bor and Upper Nile, he may have his facts. But, that is the spotlight much we can possibly admit on this matter. Any attempt to stretch the argument further without concrete actions, is bound to run into irreconcilable contradictions.

There is the undertone that our inability to get a handle to the killings is because of the influx of guns to the arms of youth but to me, it’s a lack of strategies to control civilian gun possession by state governments and how to provide security to disarmed community. There is a lot of fault play on the ground by our state authorities among themselves and invisible feelings toward each other section of the same state cannot be missed to fly.

For example, Nigeria does not share any border with Libya. Before any bandit from Libya could cross over to this country, he would have passed through some neighboring countries and other Nigerian states with no record of such clashes. That makes it difficult to fathom if the purported gunmen are really from Libya or some other neighboring countries that share common affinity in the cattle rearing business.

Even if we admit the possibility of some bandits fleeing with their guns into the land of other communities, why have such guns remained very active years after years since they left that county or state? Why has their gun power not dried up since? Or what has been the source of the replenishment of their arms and ammunitions? And why have they found comfort operating only in those communities where clashes keep recurring? Of course the government knows everything but is not in position to lock it up once and for all to care for the live of civilian.

Our stupid cattle keepers are slaying themselves thinking it is fame or fulfillment of one’s desires, but in actual fact is destruction of the very community they wish to live. It takes the wisest to quenches his thirty in River Nile while the fool goes unquenched. We are the authors of our own destructions but if we commonly realize this, it’ll never be too late to rebrand our life and reputations in the spirit of our ancestors and other people in the country. These posers underscore most poignantly that the attempt to blame the so-called “gun trading business” for the escalation of the clashes shall not pass unnoticed.

 Not with the account of the conflict in public space. Not with all we know about the immediate and remote causes of our relegations from the great strengths and norms we were known for in dark days when we liberate the country.

That alone has made states governments and national leadership chooses this angle as a plausible explanation for the festering crisis is at the root of the inability of their governments to find a handle to the killings and raiding that emptied our homes of vibrant youth let alone wealth. Yet in my opinion, the state governments in consultation with president should propose the “grazing laws” after the disarmament to block some grazing routes and cattle camps.

The ministry of defense and other organized forces in the country should create depart to monitor all guns and ammunitions trading to the hands of soldiers in their operating units. It should be made a toughest one that any soldier found guilty of selling one bullet to civilians should be dismiss in the army and convicted for good number of years.

It will be difficult to find permanent solutions to the inter-communal clashes intertwined on raiding and revenge killings as long as we fail to come to terms with the realities of the conflict. For, it is commonplace in medical parlance that a “proper diagnosis of an ailment is half way to its cure”. You cannot rule South Sudanese people with “church policy of forgiveness” and expect stability and proper functioning of state governance. Our problem is not religious but sociological and economic. It is also cultural and ethnic. It is also violation of rules and regulations.

It is not a lack of listening, or not knowing the truth but lack of unified tough measures set aside and strictly followed by the authorities. Rationalizing the causes of the conflict among Dinka and Nuer communities, I would say, some clans or sections lose everything including lives and properties in inter-communal fighting more than liberation struggle period. Is it really logical my people for the gun that you used to earn your freedom is now taking away that freedom unwisely?

I argue all intellectuals, community elders, MPs, Women and Youth Organization among others to make this a campaign to our illiterate youth carrying guns back home to stop the damn bloody business and look for other ways of living. If our cultural heritage of using cattle for marriage is weight more harms than goods, then there is nothing wrong to abolish that and introduce money with unified set price in Dinka communities for conducting marriages to save lives and properties.

It is of little help deluding ourselves with tepid excuses for the festering crisis many years after lives of innocent people have been snuffed out in the most dastardly manner by the rampaging inter-communal fighting. Whether the killers are rag-tag vergers or home grown insurgent group aimed at suiting their socio-economic and revenge killings agenda, the government must rise to the challenge of maintaining law and order or share culpability for the interminable killings devastated the pastoralist community in South Sudan.

May God bless you all and my beloved South Sudan!

The author, AWET BENJAMIN MAKER, is a South Sudanese student in China and can be reached via his email at: or

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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