Respect for cattle migration laws underscore community-proposed resolutions at a recent UN-backed conference

cattle migration UNMISS south sudan united nations peacekeeping misseriya falata community violence peacekeepers

While conflict in Sudan rages, a four-day conference backed by the UN in Ruweng, South Sudan, finds joint solutions to reducing cattle migration related violence, thanks to cattle owners from Sudan reaching amicable resolutions with their counterparts in the world's newest nation. Photo by Roseline Nzelle Nkwelle/UNMISS

24 Apr 2023

Respect for cattle migration laws underscore community-proposed resolutions at a recent UN-backed conference

Roseline Nzelle Nkwelle

RUWENG – Every year, between January to April, cattle herders from South Sudan’s northern neighbour, Sudan, cross the border to ensure their animals have fresh grass to graze on.

This annual migration of hungry cattle and their often armed owners across state lines creates tensions with farmers in the area, as cows often graze on food crops, destroying chances of a productive yield. They also affect available water sources negatively.

Disagreements caused by such movements sometimes escalate into violent clashes leading to a loss of lives.

To ensure a peaceful migration this year, a recent four-day conference in Ruweng Administrative Area Recently, brought together 80 representatives from both countries to have focused discussions on strengthening security.  

“This is a very important moment and a big achievement for us to see communities coming up with ways to solve problems despite being from different countries,” said Bosco Mawa Anthony, Director General for Conflict Resolution and Community Cohesion in the Ministry of Peace Building.

Pastoralist communities from Sudan traditionally spend more than half the year in and around Ruweng, ensuring their animals have plenty to eat. Their presence, though, isn’t often welcome, given frequent disputes with host communities, cattle theft, land grabbing and the transmission of diseases from unvaccinated animals.  

“Women are permanently in danger because of the violence related to cattle raiding,” added Mer Ajang Your, a women’s representative from Abiemnhom county. “I hope that after this conference all parties will invest in becoming real agents of peace so that we can lead normal lives,” she continued.

Through spirited and frank discussions, all participants endeavored to come up with actionable resolutions which, they hoped, would contribute to improved relationships.

“We are very happy to take part in this conference. We came here with legitimate concerns and our government also knows that we are here,” averred Yusuf Awad Allian, Commissioner of Keilak county in Western Kordofan, Sudan. “We have agreed to form joint police, a joint court and a coordination office which will enable us deal with crimes related to cattle migration,” he emphasized.

It wasn’t the first time the parties were reaching such decisions. Persistent disputes between the communities only testify to implementation shortfalls of the resolutions arrived at in 2020.

“We are determined to implement the resolutions we have agreed on,” said Hammed Bito, leader of the Falata community. “We will ensure these resolutions are widely disseminated among our youth when we return and sensitize them about the zero-tolerance policy on crime,” he added.

The successful implementation of these resolutions, of course demands the involvement and commitment of all parties, including the local government of Ruweng Administrative Area which is responsible for protecting civilians and providing basic services to nomadic pastoralists in return for their taxes.

“All involved line ministries are attending this event and we are aware of our duties to provide services to both animals and human beings living in Ruweng,” assured John Maker, Chair of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission.

The conference was jointly supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (VSF).

“The beautiful thing about this summit is that it was initiated by the government of the Ruweng Administrative Area, specifically by the Peace and Reconciliation Commission,” revealed UNMISS Civil Affairs Officer Francesco Alberto.

“The implementation and monitoring process will equally be led by the participating communities. We, as the UN family, are the supporting cast and will gladly continue our assistance when solicited, especially in training members of the coordination committee that will be created,” he continued.

“UNDP has just deployed a governance and economic analyst who is sitting with the revenue authority and the ministry of finance,” revealed Thor Chot Riek, Peace and Community Cohesion Analyst with UNDP.

“His expertise will be invaluable in dealing with the issue of multiple taxes raised by Sudanese pastoralists, and the collection of taxes by non-state actors,” he stated.

As the conference closed, participants showed pride in their accomplishment, holding up the signed resolution document, held and dancing together.

“Getting community leaders, women, youth, and government authorities together is powerful and this power is evident the quality of the resolutions we got at the end of the conference,” revealed Benjamin Moore, Transition and Recovery Coordinator for the International Organization for Migration.

“We will continue to support community ownership of migration-related conflict and support sustainable, local solutions.”