Disarmament process in Greater Lakes hampered by availability of guns and lack of trust
Cattle keepers in the Greater Lakes region have voiced concerns over the ongoing disarmament process in the area. Some fear that weapons will still be readily available, others doubt that the government will be able to protect them from attacks if and when they find themselves unarmed.
In December last year, several dozens of people died in inter-communal violence in the Greater Lakes region, prompting a presidential decree that imposed a state of emergency in a number of counties in the area. As part of its measures to restore peaceful coexistence between rival communities, the government decided that all civilians be disarmed. After a series of consultations with local populations, the disarmament process is already underway in parts of the region, but not yet in the Gok area.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has accompanied and facilitated the travels of a high-level government delegation, led by the presidential adviser on military affairs, General Daniel Awet Akot, to the Gok counties of Tiap-Tiap, Pagor and Cit-chok.
Following up on previous robust peace and reconciliation efforts in the area, by the peacekeeping mission and other actors, General Akot reiterated that cattle raids, lootings and revenge killings have been the main causes of deaths. Guns, he concluded, are too dangerous to be possessed by civilians.
“Guns are the enemies of human beings. You should realize this, and understand that guns are the enemies of yourselves,” General Akot said.
As explained by various cattle keepers attending the meetings, the nimble execution of the disarmament process is hampered by at least two serious issues. One cattle keeper spoke for many when he expressed his fears that arms, the handing over of guns or not, will still be widely available as he does not trust the ability of the authorities to keep the confiscated weapons safe.
“I have no doubt that cattle keepers will easily get their weapons back from you [the army], a resident of Tiap-Tiap said, but was assured by the state governor Madhang Majok Meen that “the government will devise proper mechanisms to monitor such illegal activities.”
Many other cattle keepers, on the other hand, fear being disarmed and hence being rendered helpless against potential attackers as they doubt the government’s ability to offer robust protection.
Governor Majok Meen, however, guaranteed that everyone would be safe:
“The government will assume the responsibility to protect you and your properties.”