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You are here: Opinion Analyses Jonglei state Conflict Analysis: Why Second Disarmament Is Not a Solution

Jonglei state Conflict Analysis: Why Second Disarmament Is Not a Solution

By Agereb Leek Chol, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

March 18, 2012 (SSNA) -- Protecting civilians should be the primary job for the government. However, the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) has failed tremendously to stop massacres in Jonglei state. In Jonglei’s Tribal Conflicts: Countering Insecurity in South Sudan estimated that 2,500 people were killed in 2009. My research dating back from 2005 until 2012 finds that 7334 were killed in Jonglei state because of cattle raids, counter attacks, and rebels casualties. These killing were exacerbated by the 2006 ‘forcible disarmament’, which left the Nuer and the Dinka Bor vulnerable to Murle’s raiders? The GoSS failed to simultaneously disarm everyone in Jonglei state. As a result, the Murle raiders took this opportunity and attack the Lou Nuer clan sometimes in January 2009 in Akobo, in which children were abducted. As a response, a well-armed youth from Lou Nuer from Akobo, Uror, and Nyiro counties lunched launched retaliatory attacks in Likuangole between 5 and March 13, killing 450 people. In April 18, 2009, the Murle gunmen retaliated by killing at least 250, and abducting women and children. Homes were burned down and 16,000 people were displaced (Crisis Group, 2009). The Dinka Bor on the other hand, experience similar attacks, but never retaliated until their official attacked in February 8, 2012, which left dozens dead or wounded. 

The cycle of violence is has been described as ‘tit-for-tat’ strategy in which one tribe attack and the other retaliate. However, the GoSS and news media have called these conflicts “intertribal violence” and have invoked the primordial assumptions that guns are the main cause of the conflict. Calling these conflicts “intertribal violence” masks the main causes of violence. The Governor of Jonglei state has tried over and over to bring peace among the warring tribes, but often is violated by Murle’s raiders. The influx of modern weapons during the civil war between the north and south Sudan has change how wars were fought. Today, one man can massacre a whole village with one guns compared to the traditional weapons.

Looking at the conflict in Jonglei state, the problem is a multifaceted issue, and this is clearly different than simple conflict due to ethnicity or clans. The data I collected from 2005 to 2012 shows that 8059 people were killed and 2432 were wounded as a result of rebel attacks, cattle raids, and retaliation in South Sudan. Majority of these attacks are carried out using assault rifles, AK47, grenade launchers, and machine guns. Disarmament is one step to bring stability in South Sudan, but is second disarmament in Jonglei state the only solution? How can the GoSS main peace after the disarmament? Perhaps the GoSS should understand that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’.

In the article, Challenges to Protection of Civilians in South Sudan: A Warning from Jonglei State, Ingrid Breidlid and Jon Lie write,

“While several of these conflicts have erupted as a result of traditional cattle-raiding practices and competition over resources (land, water and livestock), socio-economic grievances and legacies of the civil war, including ethno-political tensions, contested administrative and tribal borders, youth unemployment, erosion of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, lack of integration of former militias, and the proliferation of arms have further contributed to the complex security scenario. In many cases, these factors have in turn been manipulated by political actors at the local, state, and/or national levels for political and economic purposes” (2011, 10).

The following tables will give the narrative of the conflict. The tables will also discuss the main causes of the problem, and how the government of South Sudan responded to the conflict. These tables will also indicate the month, year, and the location to identify which part of the country has experienced more conflicts. A report by International Crisis Group (ICG) , Jonglei’s Tribal Conflicts: Countering Insecurity in South Sudan writes, “given long histories of attacks and counter-attacks among Jonglei tribes, pinpointing how and where a particular conflict cycle began is difficult, but a look at recent events relating to each situation offers context to 2009’s violence” (2). This is why one needs to be aware not to generalize if one tribe is mentioned more than the other.

A. Lou Nuer and Dinka Conflict

To understand the conflict between the Dinka and Lou Nuer in Jonglei state, one has to look at what event exacerbated the violence. The conflict between the Lou Nuer and Dinka communities in 2009 has been in many ways the most “volatile” and “politicized”. The Dinka is the largest tribe in the South with the Nuer being the second. The current President of South Sudan is from the Dinka tribe and the Vice President is Nuer. The conflict between the Dinka and Nuer is not a recent phenomenon. Dinka and Nuer have raided one another for cattle for centuries, but often made peace with one another, and in fact supported each other communally and inter-married for centuries. However, the political split in 1991 between Dr. Garang de Mabior, from Dinka and Dr. Riek Machar from Nuer over the leadership of the SPLM/A is still vivid in many minds. This split led to the death of 2,000 thousands of Dinka Bor under Dr. Riek Machar leadership (Amnesty International, 1992).

From January-May 2006, the SPLA carried out a “forcible disarmament” of Lou Nuer communities in Wuror and Nyirol counties. Brewer writes, “Nuer-Dinka tension flared in the late 2005 when the Lou Nuer, one of the main Nuer groups, requested permission to graze their cattle in the lands of the Dinka Duk County before their seasonal migration (Brewer, 2010, 3). This obviously was not tension resulting from a difference of mere ethnicity or bloodlines, but scarce distribution of physical resources. International Crisis Group writes,

“During the dry season, they must travel with their cattle to the toiche areas in search of water and grazing areas. If they go west, they enter either Dinka or Gawaar Nuer territory. If they go northeast to the Sobat River, just across the border in Upper Nile state, they enter the territory of another Nuer sub-clan, the Jikany. Lastly, if they travel south to Pibor, they enter the territory of the Murle. In short, Lou must migrate either to Dinka, Gawaar, Jikany or Murle territories to sustain their cattle, a reality which is itself a primary trigger of conflict” (2).

During the meetings, Lou Nuer refused the demand because they have never been asked to do so in the past. “The campaign was initiated at the request of communities who needed to negotiate access to cattle camps. It sought to remove weapons from local pastoralist groups, primarily the Lou Nuer, many of whom perceived it as a political crackdown” (HSBA, 2006, 4). According to Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA), the Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA) made it clear that forcible disarmament would proceed if weapons were not surrendered voluntarily (2006, 3). HSBA writes, “The reason many civilians were reluctant to disarm were that the terms of the campaign were never entirely made clear. Compensation was offered by the Jonglei governor, Philip Thon Leek, a Nyarweng Dinka from Duk County, for voluntarily returned arms, but the details concerning the source of these funds were lacking” (2006, 3). Given these ambiguities, the Lou Nuer and Gawaar refused to hand over their arms, justifying their position that they needed to protect themselves from neighboring Murle, who retained their weapons. When the SPLA started to disarm Lou’s civilians, the White Army attacked the SPLA, and this altercation led to the death of 1,200 Lou, and 400 SPLA soldiers. International Crisis Group (ICG) writes,

“The devastation generated considerable resentment. The Lou felt singled out, which increased their perception of a state government biased in favor of the Dinka because they were the only community disarmed at the time, they were left vulnerable to the neighboring Dinka and Murle. Cattle raiders took advantage of the newly vulnerable Lou, who as a result began rearming over the next eighteen months”(Crisis Group interviews, Bor, 27 October 2009; Juba, 2 November 2009).

The government failed to organize a successful civilian disarmament because there were no clear guidelines followed by the SPLA. HSBA defines civilian disarmament as “a generic concept that encompasses a wide variety of interventions. These range from tightened regulatory mechanisms for private arms possession and forcible firearms seizures, to public awareness and sensitization campaign and weapons buy-backs, , collection, destruction programs” (2006, 2). Clearly, these measures were not articulated well enough in the CPA, otherwise the government might not have run into these problems. According to HBSA, the SPLA collected some 3,000 weapons in Lou Counties and 708 guns from Rumbek central and Rumbek east. However, collecting these weapons resulted in the death of 1,200 White Army youth from Nuer and 400 SPLA soldiers as well as thousands of deaths during periodic cattle raids.

Table1. Dinka and Lou Nuer conflict from 2006-2012

 

Month & Year

 

Location

ETHNIC

Ethnic group—instigators

Ethnic

Ethnic group—victims

Total death

Casualties

Children

Abducted

Arson

Displaced

GOSS

response

Main

Main

Cause

May, 2007

Jonglei state (Duk)

Dinka

Lou Nuer

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Investigate-d by the

Governor

20,000 head of

cattle stolen

May, 2009

Torkeij

Upper Nile

Lou Nuer

Jinkay Nuer

71

50

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Land disputes

And retaliation

Aug,2009

Jonglei

Wernyol

Panyangor

Lou Nuer

Dinka

42

64

N/A

N/A

24,000

Security services deployed

Retaliation

For the

theft of 20,000

cattle

Sept, 2009

Jonglei

Duk padiet

Lou Nuer

Dinka

167

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Police deployed

Slow response

 by GOSS

Jan 7, 2010

Wunchai,

Warrap

Nuer

Dinka

140

90

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

5000 cattle

stolen

Jan 6, 2010

Tonj

Warrap state

N/A

Dinka & Nuer

40

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Cattle raid

Sep, 2011

Mayendit

Unity state

“Raiders from

Warrap”

Dinka

28

18

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Theft of

100,000 cattle

Total

 

 

 

488

222

 

 

24,000

 

125,000

In May 2007, the theft of 20,000 cattle by Dinka of Duk County from Lou Nuer led to many skirmishes. Governor Kuol Manyang led a team to investigate and reclaim stolen cattle, but the cattle were disbursed in many areas, especially in Wernyol. Only hundreds were able to be reclaimed. The Lou Nuer felt that the government wasn’t doing enough to protect them. Again in January 2009, seven wildlife and police personnel were killed in Poktap, in Duk County, on a convoy delivering salaries to state employees in Lou-dominated Nyirol country. This incident prompted a suspicion that Dinka citizens and Duk County commissioner were behind the attack.

By 2009, tensions were rising between these communities and it needed a response from Governor Kuol Manyang, who then convened a peace conference with chiefs and representatives of Dinka and Lou Counties. The chiefs made recommendations to address Lou’s demands regarding Poktap’s attack, recovery of stolen salaries, compensation for families killed, and the return of 20,000 cattle stolen in 2007. According to International Crisis Group, the paramount chief of Uror County, Gatluak Thoa, from Lou Nuer tribe made it clear that if these recommendations were not pursued, the government would be responsible for any fallout. Gatluak Thoa gave the government three months before taking matters into their own hands.

By August 28, 2009, Lou youth attacked Wernyol, in Twic East County, killing 42, wounding 60, and displacing hundreds. Immediately, National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) were dispatched to confront the youth. This step by the government prompted criticism because the government intervenes when the Dinka tribe is under attack, but not the other way around. On September 20, 2009, the group of 1,000 Lou youth struck Duk Padiet, targeting not cattle, but administrative centers. One hundred sixty seven people were killed including civilians, police, and SPLA soldiers. This incident indicates that the conflict is now politicized. The main concern by Lou Nuer disarmament is because it ‘exposes them to their tribal enemies’ because the government can’t protect them, and that the neighboring tribes should have been disarmed at the same time (Young, 2007, 12).

B. Lou-Murle conflict

To address Murle’s conflict, one needs to understand the history of war in this region. Murle region was controlled by Ismail Konyi, a leader of Murle Pibor Defense Forces. During the North-South civil, the Ismail Konyi rebels were fighting against the mainstream SPLA with the support of the Khartoum government. Despite Konyi being integrated in GoSS government in 2006, his relationship with the Khartoum government still exists. During the government disarmament period in 2007, Konyi was dispatched to Pibor to collect arms from his tribe. However, Ismail Konyi never carried out what he was asked to do. International officials in Pibor County stated that “Ismail Konyi was using funds intended for disarmament to buy local support and undermine the commissioner” (Crisis Group interview, UN disarmament expert, Juba, 2 November 2009). Immediately, Governor Koul Manyang and the Commissioner wrote to the President for his removal. The President demanded Ismail Konyi return to Juba, in which he refused and instead returned to Khartoum. Three months later, Ismail Kony returns to Juba.

In 2008, GoSS Vice President Riek Machar returned to Pibor with Ismail Konyi to dissuade Murle from attacking Lou Nuer. In early 2009, Riek Machar and Ismail Konyi traveled to Lou to inform them of the new Murle pledge for peace. Soon after these officials left, Murle raiders attacked areas in Akobo County, which severely discredited any ‘peace negotiation’. The Lou Nuer rearmed themselves again to retaliate against the attack by Murle.

Table2. Nuer and Murle conflict from 2006-2012 

 

Month & Year

 

Location

ETHNIC

Ethnic group—instigators

Ethnic

Ethnic group—victims

Total death

Casualties

Children

Abducted

Arson

Displaced

GOSS

response

Main

Main

Cause

March, 2009

Akobo &

Pibor,

Jonglei

 

Lou Nuer

Murle

750

1000

N/A

N/A

N/A

Ismail Konyi dispatched

600 cattle

stolen

March,

2009

Pibor

Jonglei

Lou Nuer

Murle

450

45

N/A

N/A

5,000

N/A

Retaliation

April, 2009

Jonglei,

Akobo

Murle

Lou Nuer

250

70

N/A

N/A

16,000

Lou-Murle

Peace talk

Retaliation on

 March attack

August, 2009

Jonglei,

Mareng

Murle

Lou Nuer

185

18

N/A

N/A

N/A

Governor condemne-d the killing

N/A

August, 2011

Uror, Jonglei

Murle

Lou Nuer

640

861

208

 

7924

huts

N/A

SPLA forces deployed

Theft of 38,000

cattle

Dec, 2011

Pibor, Jonglei

Lou Nuer

Murle

3,000

N/A

1293

 

60,000

SPLA & UN dispatch

Retaliation attack, w

Which of

375,186 cattle

stolen

March, 2012

Nyirol, Jonglei state

Murle

Nuer

30

15

NA

N/A

N/A

N/A

15, 000 heads

Of cattle stolen

Total

 

 

 

5305

2009

1504

0

80,000

 

428786 cattle

January 2009 attack in Akobo resulted in Lou youth from Akobo, Uror, and Nyirol Counties attacking the Murle from March 5-13, killing 450 people. On April 18, 2009, Murle gunmen retaliated by killing 250 people in Nyandit. They also abducted children and women. During this attack, 16,000 people were displaced (Human Right Watch, 2009). The “tit -for-tat” clashes between Lou and Murle reoccurs because the government is not doing enough to stop the Murle from attacking Lou. The Murle leaders aren’t doing enough to discourage youth from raiding other villages.

One interesting data about Nuer and Murle conflict is December, 2011. The attack by lou youth from Nuer, which claimed 3000 lives is disputed by the U.N. The U. N officials who were in area think the numbers were in hundreds. The themes in this section include child abduction, cattle raids, and retaliatory attacks from both tribes. The data shows that 208 children were abducted by the Murle. However, I predict these numbers to be higher. Jonglei state government rarely keeps records of attacks, which makes it hard to track those abducted. According to Jonglei state government report in 2009, 380 children were abducted. (Breidlid & Lie, 2011, 10). This piece of data is missing in the table. This clearly shows that the data is possibly missing more cases.

C. Lou Nuer-Jikany Nuer land dispute

The Lou and Jikany are sub-clans of the Nuer tribe; however, both clans have been in conflict with each other because of prior land disputes. The Lou and Jikany for example, are from Nuer tribe, but they are also involved in similar feuds paralleling the Dinka and Murle. So, why then do we still call the conflict as “inter-tribal violence” if two sub-clans from one tribe are fighting against one another? The conflict between Lou and Jikany stems from the North-South civil war. International Crisis Group writes, “In the 1980s, the SPLA carved the South into operational zones. However, some interpreted these as administrative boundaries and began moving accordingly. Lou occupied areas along the western bank of the Sobat, traditionally home to the Jikany, resulting in significant Jikany displacement to other parts of Upper Nile state” (7).

In January 2009, Wanding payam, a disputed territory, was handed back to the Jinkany communities; however, the Lou tribe who once inhabited the area in the 1980s never fully left the territory. In the spring of 2009, a “series of cattle theft, the murder of Jikany trader in Akobo and abductions of Lou children brought more tensions between Lou and Jikany. In May 2009, Lou youth retaliated killing 71 and wounded 50 people”(Crisis Group interviews, Lou, Juba). After this event occurred, the government didn’t take any initiatives to stop the conflict in order to prevent further retaliation. 

D. Dinka and Murle conflict

Table3. Dinka and Murle conflict from 2006-2012

 

Month & Year

 

Location

ETHNIC

Ethnic group—instigators

Ethnic

Ethnic group—victims

Total death

Casualties

Women &

Children

Abducted

Arson

Displaced

GOSS

response

Main

Main

Cause

October, 2007

Bor, Jonglei

Murle

Dinka

N/A

N/A

2

N/A

N/A

N/A

Child adduction

Dec, 2011

Jale

Jonglei

Murle

Dinka

42

17

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Jan, 2012

Duk

Jonglei

Murle

Dinka

47

7

N/A

N/A

N/A

UN

Dispatch-ed

200 heads of

Cattle stolen

February, 2012

Bor, Jonglei

Dinka Bor

Murle

9

11

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Retaliation

Total

 

 

 

98

35

2

 

 

 

 

The Dinka Bor and the Murle inter-tribal conflict is reported that cattle raiding and child abduction are the main causes. However, the data collected from 2006 to 2012 shows that one boy and a girl were abducted in Bor. The killing in December 7, 2011 in Jale payam in Jonglei state is believe to be an intentional killing by the locals. According to Borglobe news reports, the “Murle raiders always target to abduct children, but surprisingly, they killed children and elderly this time in a move seen as a hate violence” (Borglobe, 2011, 7). The data presented above doesn’t explain the entire conflict between these tribes. There is no doubt that many children have been abducted in Bor and other places then the data shows. The Jonglei state police lack the capacity to investigate these abduction.

E. Armed rebels groups in South Sudan

Jonglei State, Warrap State, Unity State, and Central Equatoria are some of the areas that are experiencing rebel conflicts in addition to ‘intertribal cattle raiding’. Table 4 below maps rebels’ activities in the South Sudan. The rebels groups which are creating havoc in the South belong to a former SPLM/A commander, George Athor who rebelled during the April 2010 elections after losing to the governor of Jonglei State, Kuol Manyang Juk. George Athor’s rebellion was politically motivated. Despite his death in December 2011, his rebels are still active in Jonglei State.

Table4. Rebel attacks: South Sudan rebels and the LRA from 2006-2012

 

Month & Year

 

Location

Instigators

Total death

Casualties

Arson

Displaced

GOSS

response

Main

Main

Cause

May, 2006

Motot, karam , Yuai,

Jonglei

South Sudan

Rebels

113

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Disarmament campaign

 

May, 2006

Uror, Nyirol,

Jonglei

South Sudan Rebels &

 SPLA

1600

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Disarmament campaign

1200 Lou youth and 1400 SPLA killed

Oct, 2009

Terekeka,

Central

Equatoria

LRA rebels

30

N/A

N/A

22,000

N/A

N/A

Oct, 2009

Western

Equatoria

LRA rebels

205

135

 

67,700

N/A

N/A

Oct, 2010

Mayom,

Unity State

South Sudan Rebels

75

18

N/A

N/A

SPLA

forces

dispatch

600 cattle

Confiscated

Rebel’s homes

May , 2011

Nyandeit,

Unity State

South Sudan

Rebel

86

N/A

N/A

N/A

SPLA

Forces

dispatched

Rebels

Attacking SPLA

stations

June, 2011

Tony, Warrap state

South Sudan Rebels

50

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Dec, 2011

Pigi ,

Jonglei

South Sudan Rebels

9

13

N/A

N/A

SPLA

Forces dispatched

Voting

Fraud

Total

 

 

2168

166

 

 

 

 

The second armed group is the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), a rebel group made up of forces formerly loyal to Peter Gadet who had accepted an amnesty from the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit. However, majors of SSLA forces haven’t been integrated into the SPLA and they pose a threat to peace. The data collected from 2005 to 2011 shows that together George Athor’s and Peter Gadet’s rebels’ clashes with the SPLA have killed 2168 people in South Sudan. The SSLA accused the government of South Sudan of corruption and underdevelopment. According to the BBC, “they are angered by what they believe is the domination by the Dinka ethnic group” (BBC, October 29, 2011). Senior officers – majors -- of these rebels are from the Nuer tribe. Their confrontation with government soldiers has resulted in the deaths of many civilians.

The third rebel group is the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), which is under the leadership of Joseph Kony. This rebel group is at war with Ugandan government, however, they are operating in the border of Centeral Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Western Equatoria, and the Congo. The LRA is a proxy rebel group being used by the North to disrupt peace in South Sudan. Despite South Sudan becoming an independent nation, LRA are still killing civilians in their villagers. In The Lord’s Resistance Army in Sudan: A History and Overview, Mareike Schomerus writes “Khartoum ran a proxy war through the LRA against the SPLA and UPDF, while the LRA obtained supplies and assistance in its attempt to overthrow Museveni” (2007, 18). According to the Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report from June-August 2011, 70,000 people were LRA-induced IDPS in Western Equatoria since 2008. In Cakaj’s article, The Lord’s Resistance Army and the Threat Against Civilians in South Sudan, a UN report indicated that 205 people in Western Equatoria were killed in October 2009, and 135 people were abducted. Over 67,700 people were displaced from their homes as a result of LRA attacks in this region (Cakaj, 2009, 2).

Cultural Abuse

Clearly, cattle raids, and child abduction are the main triggers of the conflict. The question is why does Murle raid other tribes for cattle and abduct children? According to Gurtong website, “The Murle social and cultural life is centered round their cattle. They breed them, marry with them, eat their meat, drink their blood and milk, and sleep on their hides. The Murle compose songs full of references to the herds captured in battle or raids from their neighbours. Raiding and stealing of cattle is a question of honour and valour. Every important social event is celebrated by the sacrifice of a bull in order to ensure the participation of the ancestral spirits as well as to provide food for the assembled guests and relatives. Kinship obligations are expressed in terms of cattle”. To put it succinctly, the Murle culture is somewhat abusive because “the Murle compose songs full of references to the herds captured in battle or raids from their neighbors. If this is true, how do we expect the disarmament to materialized knowing that the Murle raiders will rearm to carry on their tradition?

Child abduction

In case of child abduction, how does this translate into “intertribal violence”? This discourse suggests that these tribes are fighting because they hate each other base on their tribal identity. I would assume that the Murle tribe abduct women and children to make them part of their community. Perhaps Abner Cohen’s explanation which “placed a greater emphasis on ethnic group as a collective organized strategy for the protection of economic and political interest” (Jones, 1997, 74) might shed some light on this issue. Whether these abductees are assimilated into Murle’s culture or sold into slavery, this business has created a deep hatred against the Murle tribe. Typically, the Murle tribe abducts women and children ranging from one year old to sixteen years old. No one knows exactly when this tradition of child abduction started in Murle’s culture. Recently, the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit was quoted saying that the Murle tribe are suffering from “syphilis” during the aftermath of Yar and Ajak abduction. The abduction of Yar and Ajak in 2007 made headlines in American news media. Their uncle, a Lost Boy from Minnesota State University mobilized his classmates to write petitions to the U.S government. The students’ work became known as Save Yar Campaign.

The question is what laws are put in place by the GoSS and the Jonglei parliament to retrieve those abducted to their parents? What form of identification should be followed once they are identified? What is the level of punishment? Perhaps deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing should be used to identify the victims. Relying on physical identification marks to identify these victims can complicate the process. Recently, when 6000 youth from Nuer tribe launched attack in December against the Murle tribe, they brought back women and children who identify themselves as Dinka Bor. For example, one family whom I know identifies their daughter which was abducted in 1997, and now she’s claiming to be Murle. She speaks Dinka language fluently and she fit her mother’s identifications. What do you do in this case? DNA testing is expensive, but parents should be given the option.

Cattle raids

Cattle keeping have been the tradition in these communities for centuries. The question is what mechanism has been put in place to protect cattle camps? What laws are put in place to punish cattle thieves? What laws are put in place to manage grazing land? We have to predict that not everyone is going to hand over their guns. What is GoSS’ position on those who defected from the Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA)? These defectors have been implicated in the raids. The attack on January, 2012 in Duk Padiet County is interesting because the commissioner believes that Murle’s soldiers in the SPLA carried out the attack. According to the (thenewnation.net), the commissioner reported that “Some of the attackers who were killed during the clashes with the local youth were wearing SPLA uniforms” (thenewnation, 2012, 18).

Why civilians demand weapons?

The Small Arms Survey field research, which focused on social factors fueling the civilians’ demand for weapons, suggest the following to be exacerbating the violence:

  • Protection of livestock from cattle rustling. The majority of people in Jonglei live in rural areas and they rely on livestock as a source of livelihood, arms are important to protect cattle
  • Protection from crime against individuals, their household, and their communities: the failure by the government to provide security forces locals to acquire guns to protect themselves from violent crimes
  • Communal self-defense and deterrence: “Pastoral wars- over pasture, farmland, and wells, but also arising from political and commercial rivalries played out between elites—are endemic in the region. Communities unable to protect and defend their communal resources risk them to better-armed rivals. As a result of these and other security dilemmas, tribes seek to maximize their firepower as a form of deterrence” (HSBA, 2007, 3).
  • Anticipation of renewed political violence/civil war; there is a fear among South Sudanese that war might resume again because of rebellion and Khartoum’s threats makes the locals adamant to increase their arsenals to protect and fight in the next round of war.
  • Cross-border insecurity from armed groups: Lord Resistance Army (LRA) activities in the border of South Sudan, Uganda, and Congo have led to insecurity and displacement in South Sudan. This group has been accused of killing, kidnapping, and banditry in. Rebel’s confrontations with the SPLA have led to the death of many civilians. These alone force civilians to acquire guns.
  • Bride’s wealth and dowry: the demand to pay dowries among pastoralist tribes in South Sudan exacerbates the conflict because young men want to follow traditional customs. This indirectly increases the demand for small arms in order to carry out cattle raiding and when locals knowingly continually demand high dowry in cattle-scarce areas this is a form of “culture abuse”.
  • Offensive attacks: Communities who often carry out attacks on other tribes benefit from the spoils of conflict. These benefits include stolen cattle, children, and house goods.

The government of South Sudan is aware of these issues mentioned above. How are these problems framed as ‘tribal issues’ since the conflict is a multifaceted problem? How is disarmament a solution if these problems are not address? In order to solve these issues, the government first needs to abandon this term, and deal with the insecurity. This language reifies the discourse. The question is how can the government of South Sudan (GoSS) disarm civilians peacefully and maintain peace? What the government forgets to understand is the underlying motives for why these civilians refused to hand over their arms. As an SPLA official during the campaign stated, “You’ll kill 500, but the rest will hand the guns over. It is necessary to use a well-equipped force to disarm. We don’t want to hurt anyone, but we must start somewhere, and we must do our best to provide security to those disarmed” (Brewer, 2010, 7). The government only seems to be interested in collecting arms, but neglects civilians’ protection. This attitude that killing 500 people will deter people to hand over their guns voluntary is problematic. 

Who is responsible for the many deaths in Jonglei State and other part of the country? The government which failed to provide protection or the civilians who take matters into their hands and retaliate?

Recommendations to the Government of South Sudan (GoSS)

In order for the government to stop the violence, the following issues must be addressed.

  • Conduct disarmament simultaneously in ten states. First, the government needs to deploy police and SPLA soldiers in all counties so civilians feel protected, and then disarm all civilians. Soldiers should remain until a South Sudan police force is well equipped enough to take over. The government should also make it clear that that civilians found with guns after the disarmament will be fined and sent to prison.
  • Armed police officers in order for them to respond to well-armed criminals. Most importantly, build police stationss in 11 counties, Payams, and bomas. These stations can easily communicate when these criminals raid and abduct children.
  • Create gun control laws. For those who wish to own a gun for hunting, they must apply and receive approval from the government.
  • Build better schools and hire South Sudanese to teach skills to earn a living.
  • Control South Sudanese borders to stop weapons supply. Without well trained border security officers, guns will always return to the hands of civilians.
  • Regulate cattle business: The GoSS needs to put in place a formal system to monitor cattle’s sale. In order for someone to sale their cows they have to show proof of ownership. South Sudan is not ready to engage in a free market where by the market decide the prices.
  • Raiders should never be pursued by cattle owners. Camp leaders should report the attack to the police to pursue the attackers.
  • Fixed bride price for tribes who still practice dowry payment.
  • Abducted children should be documented immediately. To combat this, the government must create a department that investigates cases of kidnapped children until they are returned to their parents.
  • Pastoralists in search of grazing land have to request in advance before they can travel. It has to be approved by local leaders, and signed by county commissioners. Should there be any damage to local farms, the cattle owners should compensate for the loss.
  • The GoSS should establish a ‘state army’, which can respond to any emergency in each of ten states instead of rely on the national army.
  • More representation of each tribe in the parliament. This will prevent small tribes from being marginalize in the government.

It is my hope that with these recommendations put forth by South Sudan’s leadership and the Jonglei state administration, the ‘intertribal cattle rustling’, which the government calls “intertribal violence”, will decrease. Disarmament will never eliminate cattle rustling and child abduction. The GoSS must work hard to create strict laws that punish those who are involved in the child abduction business. South Sudan’s borders need to be well secured; otherwise, illegal guns will be a threat to peace in South Sudan.

The Author is a student at Clark University, Worcester, MA. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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