Following a long period of unrest and violence between cattle keepers and farmers in and around Nimule in Magwi County, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) recently paid another visit to the area.
Internally displaced persons took the opportunity to request the world body’s assistance in bringing reconciliation so that conflict-affected communities can start living together in peace.
“We are open to and would welcome a peace conference. What has happened has happened, now is the time to forge a sustainable way forward. We need to find common ground to coexist in harmony again,” said John Bol, Chief of the Dinka community in Nimule, with reference to the Madi community, the traditional residents of the area.
Over the last few months, bouts of violence between cattle keepers and farmers, disgruntled because of their crops being ruined by the beasts, have claimed many lives, cattle raids and revenge attacks, forcing lots of people to leave their homes. As tends to be the case when there is conflict, vulnerable groups like women, children, the elderly and the disabled have suffered the most.
“We disabled people are useful to the nation. If there is conflict, we cannot run, so violence affects disabled people, who have made history in this country, more than others,” said Isaac Chol, one of the many people who were badly injured during South Sudan’s war of independence.
The latest major incidents to befall Magwi County took place on 9 July, when a theft of 150 goats also left two young men dead, and on 11 July, when the Anzara village chief was killed in Nimule town.
“Seeing all this violence is painful for us women. Let there be no more revenge attacks,” pleaded Mary Yarr, a Dinka church leader who has lived in Nimule for more than 30 years. “I don’t want to see anybody killed, neither Madi, nor Dinka,” she added.
The UNMISS team undertook the patrol to Nimule and surroundings to assess the security situation and to seek the opinions of affected communities as to how the peacekeeping mission can best protect civilians and contribute to restoring peace.
“We are here to discuss how we can contribute to reconciliation and to ensure that civilians, vulnerable people in particular, are safe. But, if peace is to prevail, you must remain calm and put an end to the vicious, self-perpetuating cycle of revenge attacks,” said Civil Affairs Officer Hercules Balu Henry.
In a meeting between the peacekeepers and representatives of the Madi community, the latter shared the desire for peace previously expressed by their Dinka counterparts.
“We have no time for conflict, we need peace. But before we can sit down for a dialogue to resolve our issues, all cattle must leave Magwi County,” said Koma James Adriko, a representative of Madi chiefs.