Mundari leaders dialogue for peaceful co-existence | ACORD South Sudan
After witnessing subsequent fights among the Mundari people of Nyikabor and Tukoro in Terekeka County, ACORD South Sudan has intervened to ensure that there is sustainable peaceful co-existence between the people of these areas by facilitating a two-day dialogue between the chiefs of the two areas.
The people in the two areas have been engaged in violent conflict among themselves at least twice between 2013 and 2014 that resulted in the loss of human lives and property. A total of nine people were killed during the fights, while houses were burnt to ashes and animals looted. The two communities were brought together for a similar dialogue by the government with no concrete agreement and mechanism set in place to monitor the two communities so as to avoid further hostilities.
A total number of 40 chiefs from both communities including the Paramount Chief and the County Head Chief deliberated on a number of issues, including the key driving factors of the conflict.
The issues identified by the local leaders were:
• Weak rule of law/ poor governance
• Competition over land for grazing and water
• Political influence
• Proliferation of small arms in the hands of non-state actors.
These issues are influence by factor such as the high illiteracy rate among the youths; excessive consumption of alcohol; and cultural influence such as “Rupi” where boys undergo initiation into adulthood through violence acts.
Another factor identified was poverty. Marriage is expensive, leading to cattle raiding. In the Mundari culture for a man to marry, at least 50 herds of cattle must be presented to the parents of the bride, unless certain agreements with the family of the bride have been made. Also, the Mundari are agro-pastoralists who have lived in constant fear due to cattle raiding from either neighboring counties or from within.
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However, the overriding cause of the conflict was the use of a cattle path by the animals use when going for grazing or to the landing sites for water that is also used for planting crops by one community, triggering the conflict.
South Sudan, as a whole, is constantly being faced with similar conflicts over land, internal borders and cattle raiding, among other social, political and economic challenges. The country has the Land Act although the policy is not yet out. This makes dealing with land issues difficult.
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Since independence, the people of South Sudan hoped for improved security and political stability, a better standard of living and improvement in the overall development indicators of the new nation, but the government has failed to fulfil these expectations through establishment of the required institutions to deliver on its promises to the citizens. The institutions’ inability to function effectively has been constrained by technical and limited resource challenges.
The leaders of the two communities agreed for the formation of an independent committee to verify and open the cattle path, come up with by laws that will restrain hooliganism among the youths and to engage further on the matter of the demand for huge herds of cattle for marriage so that the chiefs will agree on a minimum number that even the poor will afford.
The leaders also observed that disarmament must be done in the communities, promising their absolute co-operation for sustainable peace and the establishment of police posts in rural areas for easy and quick response in case of violence by the communities.
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On January 31, 2015, ACORD guided the two communities in signing a social contract following the dialogue it facilitated in December 2014. During the signing of the social contract witnessed by the government official, church leaders, chiefs and community including the youths who are actively engage in the violence, the “Bagala” tradition was performed. In the Mundari tradition, if a fight broke out and people got killed, there is need for animal blood for sustainable peace between the warring communities. Hence, a bull was slaughtered as a ritual that will deter any person from the two communities from starting future hostilities. Youth from both communities of Nyikabor and Tukoro were warned not to start any violence.
The two communities have appealed for a peace activity like the construction of a borehole at the border of the two communities, which ACORD has promised to provide to sustain the peace contract signed. With the help of ACORD, the Peace Monitoring Committee was formed to monitor and report whether or not there is adherence to the social contract. The committee is composed of six members, two of whom are women.