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Jonglei State Problems and Solutions

By Dhanojak Obongo

November 25, 2013 (SSNA) -- I am a concerned son and native of Jonglei State writing in my private academic capacity and not as Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the Republic of South Sudan to the United States of America or as an ambassador of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of that newly formed nation.

 THE MURLE COMMUNITY

The ethnic community known as Murle is a majority pastoral people who originated from the Nilo-Hamitic group of Africa. They have two major clans: the Lothela lowland Pibor people divided into three payms; Pibor, Likuanglei, and Gumuru; and Buma Plateau (Upper Pibor) people of the Nalgam clan oriented to agriculture.    Murle population is estimated at 85,000 according to the disputed census of 2010.

Murle intercommunity conflict in Jonglei State with Anyuak, Dinka, and Nuer tribes reaches back to ancient times. The Anyuak and Nuer communities traditionally carried small arms and their example was followed by the Murle Community. Problems derived from such practice worsened when the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) was founded and the Government of Sudan (GOS) armed some ethnic South Sudanese militias. Subsequently small arms proliferated in the hands of South Sudanese civilians.

In 2010 after the Republic of South Sudan gained independence, the new government implemented a disarmament operations policy for all ethnic civilians carrying small arms without exception. The general policy was started in Jonglei State particularly with the brothers of the Murle community as they were considered the most aggressive compared to the other ethnic groups there.

Disarmament operations of Murle civilians has a history. In 1975 – 1976 the Regional Government of Southern Sudan,  at that time under the leadership of His Excellency Justice Abel Alier, Vice President of the Sudan and the President High Executive Council (HEC), conducted disarmament operations. Captain Williams Nyoun Benny and Second Lieutenant Simon Makwach Adthom collected many small arms from the Murle community. Many children and women abducted from the Anyuaks, Nuers and Dinkas were returned to their families via the paramount chiefs.  In 2012 history repeated itself. 

THE ROOT CAUSES OF CONFLICT

1. My brethren of the Murle community have a strong cultural belief that all cows in the world in general and particularly in neighboring ethnic communities belong to the Murle community and should be brought home. 
2. Ignorance and literacy are big factors among the four ethnic communities.
3. Common high rate of unemployment among youth.
4. A lack of social and economic development in the eleven involved counties.
5. Poverty.
6. Tribal and clan jealousy.
7. Lack of strong political awareness, civic education and nationalism.
8. Fragile political and social institutions.
9. Factors of war, trauma and wounds.
10. Lust for cattle which leads to raiding.
11. Lack of organized grass grazing areas for pasture.
12. Lack of development and infrastructure in the states, e.g feeder roads etc.

SOLUTIONS

Obviously other factors may apply but I believe that there are solutions to any conflict. If our intellectuals, politicians, and traditional authorities come together, they will be able to work out a durable solution to conflict in Jonglei State. Moreover, the conflict with rebel leader David Yau Yau was purely  political issue, because Mr.Yau claimed that, he won the seat of Gumuru in 2010 general elections  from Hon. Judy  Jonglei.Thus, should it be resolved through political means full stop. 

Here below are some proposals:

  • GOSS to give governorship or national  ministerial position to the rebel leader Mr.David Yau Yau .    
  • GOSS to come up with the three months political peace negotiation for the rebel leader Daivd Yau Yau  via the UNMISS leadership.
  •  Building strong political, economic and social institutions in the state.
  • Revise and strengthen the native administrative court under traditional authorities and leaders.
  • Revise of the policy of decentralization.
  • Creation of more job opportunities for youth in the state.
  • Urging church leaders to emphasize from the pulpit on the ministry of reconciliation.
  • Adoption of the South African concept of truth and reconciliation principle.
  • Adoption of the mechanism of exchanging guns for cows or money funded by state leadership.
  • Disarmament operations coordinated with youth and political parties activity.
  • Avoidance of political exclusion of any ethnic community.
  • Involvement of state intellectuals and academic personnel in the decision making process.
  • Creation of a Center for Ethnic and Peace Studies at Dr. John Garang de Mabior Memorial University of Technology.
  • Involvement of state women and youth associations.
  • Development of a strong program for civic education by the SPLM and South Sudanese political parties.
  • Convening a second All Development Conference for sons and daughters of the state as soon as possible.
  • Create an annual traditional and popular dances tournament among the eleven counties in conjunction with Independence Day celebrations. 
  • Encourage annual rotation of youth camping among the counties.
  • Encourage the State Ministry of Agriculture to reward seasonal harvest farmers with award of a tractor for best performance. 
  • Adopt a 75/25% split of non-native civil servants deployed to counties to encourage diversification.
  • Encourage legislation against inciting ethnic violence.
  • Discourage a culture of impunity through severe punishments for ethnic violence.
  • Encourage youth job creation by state , local and foreign investors. 
  • Create a strong Taxation and Revenue Authority (TRA) with foreign leadership during the initial half decade followed by native leadership.
  • Encourage a law and order culture with diverse ethnic community and building strong enforcement agencies. 
  • Encourage ethnic intermarriage.
  • Minimize ethnic politics in the general election campaign.
  • Create state and county libraries with one specially for members of parliament.
  • Establish spaces for recreation and social activities.
  • Establish strong state political leadership to promote unity.
  • Encourage United Nations and nongovernmental organization funding assistance.
  • Engage state in strong holistic approach for development projects, e.g. infrastructure of feeder roads, etc.
  • Engage state in social and economic development.

It is my strong belief that our beloved president will provide leadership with the State Governor and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission to adopt some of these proposals in the near future. The Jonglei conflict has become a national security issue. We are all a part of the solution as well as part of the problem.   It is my humble hope that some of these suggestions can assist the new incoming governor of Jonglei State as solutions to conflict of the Jonglei state.

May God bless the Republic of South Sudan and Jonglei State?

Amb. Dhanojak Obongo received Bachelor of Theology, from the Evangelical Theology Seminary, Cairo, Egypt, plus he has a Postgraduate Diploma, Sociology, specializing in Social Planning and Development; University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.  Currently, he’s a Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Republic of South Sudan, Washington, D.C., USA. He can be reached via e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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