To reduce potential for conflict, preparations for upcoming cattle migration season begin in Warrap

UNMISS cattle livestock migration herders farmers women pastoralists semi-nomadic Wau Warrap south sudan cattle migration western bahr el ghazal conflict peacekeeping united nations undp fao unmiss

Ahead of South Sudan's annual migration season, stakeholders in Warrap hold discussions on avoiding violence and conflicts with their neighbours in Western Bahr El Ghazal. Photo by Zejin Yin/UNMISS

16 Dec 2022

To reduce potential for conflict, preparations for upcoming cattle migration season begin in Warrap

Zejin Yin

WARRAP - "Seasonal movement of livestock between Western Bahr El Ghazal and Warrap is part of the fabric of our existence but often, this leads to conflict between settled farmers and semi-nomadic herders. However, the 2016 Marial Bai Agreement and the support from the United Nations family has made it much easier for both communities to function within agreed rules, leading to a less contentious migration,” reveals Joseph Kuot Wal, facilitator of the annual pre-consultation meeting on this issue, held in Warrap, South Sudan.

Supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Marial Bai Agreement has regulated cross-border movement between the two states for the past six years.

Each year, prior to the annual cattle migration conference held in Wau, the capital of Western Bahr El Ghazal, the two UN entities host meetings for the cattle keepers and community leaders, together with the State government in Warrap.

"Pre-consultation meetings are important for us to present a unified front to stakeholders from Western Bahr El Ghazal, so that we can avoid mistakes made during the previous migration season," said payam administrator in Abyei Chok, Tonj South, Rebecca Nyanut Chiman. "We are happy that each year, conflict caused by the movement of cattle is reducing. I believe this is because of the continuing sensitization and revisions to the Agreement. For the first time ever, no rapes were reported during the annual cattle migration across boarders last season," she added.

This year, the Warrap state government publicly affirmed the significance of having women's voices heard in the local justice system to resolve conflicts involving cattle, “Women should be represented at higher rates in our local courts to ensure equality and fairness, as required by the Local Government Act, 2009. Therefore, by ministerial order, any court that fails to observe women's representation will be closed until such an arrangement is made,” informed William Deng Koor, state Minister of Local Government, speaking to paramount chiefs and cattle camp leaders during the meeting.

Drici Turoko, a Civil Affairs Officer for UNMISS, expressed gratitude to all parties involved for upholding the Agreement since its signing in 2016.  "Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful commentary on this important issue. The Marial Bai Agreement is a pivotal document, and has brought harmony to interstate relationships between animal herders and farmers. It is the basis for us to build a strong foundation for national peacebuilding efforts.

Participants also praised the role of the Joint Special Mobile Court in resolving disputes between Western Bahr El Ghazal and Warrap states related to cattle raiding. "When it comes to resolving legal conflicts, the Joint Special Mobile Court is an invaluable resource. Last year, it effectively resolved many issues by combining customary law with the national constitution," stated Andrea Mawien Akol, Chairman, Interstate Coordinating Committee for Seasonal Cattle Movement, Andrea Mawien Akol.

More than 40 participants, including paramount chiefs, cattle camp leaders, local authorities, and youth and women representatives attended the meeting. By discussing the benefits and drawbacks of the migration, they were able to come up with a comprehensive plan to warmly welcome future migrants.