UNMISS responds to early warning to prevent inter-communal fighting in Lakes
Early warnings of a potential revenge attack by the Rup community on their Pakam neighbours in the Greater Lakes area prompted the United Nations Mission in South Sudan to organize a peace sensitization forum to prevent such developments from materializing.
“It is not easy to convince these youths not to seek revenge when their cattle have been stolen, but constantly engaging with them is yielding results. Every day we talk to them about the importance of peaceful co-existence with other communities,” says Matur War Wang, the veteran executive chief of Among Piny County.
The chief has the moral authority to talk about restraining impulses to avenge real or perceived slights. He has lost two of his sons during violent cattle raids and has seen first-hand what the likely consequences of retaliation are.
“If they [the Rup youth] go for revenge, then the other people [the Pakam community] will do the same and there will be no end to this violence,” he affirms, with history and rather recent events tending to confirm his fears.
Frequent tensions and cattle raids, often claiming multiple lives, between the Rup, Pakam and Kuei communities saw the three groups sign a local peace agreement, but attacks to steal cattle in March and April saw that deal being blatantly violated. Several people lost their lives in the process, with fears of a retaliatory attack by Rup cattle keeping youth, known as “Gelweng”, steadily increasing.
“We are here to ensure that the earlier peace agreement that was signed by the Rup, Pakam and Kuei communities is not violated. When we got the early warning, we decided to come in and prevent any possible revenge attack plans from happening,” said Gibril Allan Toure, a Civil Affairs Officer representing the UN peacekeeping mission.
According to Mabor Makoi, the Among Piny cattle camp leader, there is no need to worry about any aggressions on their part.
“That [a revenge attack] is a rumor, we don’t have such plans. We can’t do anything like that because we have all been disarmed,” he said.
For security reasons, the youth cattle keepers have moved their animals to the Among Piny County headquarters, where government forces can provide protection in case of any attacks being made neighbouring communities.
Youth leaders decry the continued existence of illegal arms in the area.
“The government should disarm everyone so that we can all leave in peace,” said Joseph Makur, chairperson of the Among Piny Youth Union.