Summary of the reasons for conflict in Mundri area,
SUBMITTED BY A CONCERNED MUNDRI CITIZEN
Dec 14, 2017(Nyamilepedia) — The conflict currently raging in Mundri area is characterized by the aggressive and unacceptable behavior of Dinka pastoralists in the area, the destruction of crops and degradation of the environment by their livestock, coupled with lack of respect for the cultural and traditional norms of the local people. The indigenous people are irked by and take exception to-
- The total lack of respect that the cattle herders show for local authorities, elders, chiefs and the county authorities,
- Arrogance, aggressiveness at the slightest provocation or sometimes at no provocation at all, and impunity,
- Insensitivity and inaction on the part of the SPLM (during the war) and by the post Agreement Governments of South Sudan to address the grievances of the local people,
- Collusion between Dinka herders in the area and the Dinka dominated army, security and police at Mundri town and elsewhere in Greater Mundri area,
- Indiscriminate condemnation, ultimatums and threats by senior government officials in Juba who are mostly Dinka or perceived to be ating in the interest of the Dinka. These officials pronounce themselves on disputes in the area without first appraising the situation, appreciating and addressing the grievances of the local people.
- Alienation through indiscriminate use of lethal weapons.
- Destruction of homes, arrest and killing of several civilians especially young men.
The story – in brief
The reasons why the people of Greater Mundri resorted to taking up arms was the incursion of armed Dinka pastoralists from Bor, Yirol and Rumbek with their livestock and causing extensive damage to their crops, the other means of livelihood and the environment. They also were alarmed because what they were seeing was the beginnings of the permanent occupation of their lands by the immigrant Dinkas. That was clear through the extreme reluctance of the Dinka to return to their ancestral lands and by the immigrants giving Dinka names to localities and directions. Furthermore, the local/ indigenous people saw clear reluctance by the leaders of SPLM/A, and later the Governments of South Sudan (who all were Dinkas) to repatriate the Dinka pastoralists. Lastly, they saw the partiality of the Dinka dominated government, the army, police and the national security organization towards the pastoralists; and the readiness of these bodies to cast them as the criminals in any dispute.
Incursion of Dinka Bor pastoralist
It began in 1991 with the incursion of the Dinka Bor across the Nile as they fled for dear life from the Nuer. Their kinsfolk the Aliab Dinka as well as the Mundari refused to give them refuge. Upon arrival, the people of Greater Mundri took pity on them and allowed them to live among them till the war is over or a peace settlement is reached.But soon that kind offer of refuge turned out to be a nightmare. Because, the Dinka pastoralists began to engage in practices that were anathema to the norms of the people. Their livestock destroyed crops as well as the environment; and they did not respect local cultures, traditions, norms and local authorities. The people were unable to deal with them because they were well armed by their brethren in SPLA. When this became unbearable, a delegation was sent to the Chairman of SPLM/A John Garang seeking the repatriation of the Dinka Bor and their cattle. But, though he sounded sympathetic, nothing concrete came out of his sympathy. However later, perhaps in response, some half-hearted and futile efforts were made to have the pastoralists return to Jonglei but they never left. In 2007, matters came to a head when, left with no recourse and following the killing of a farmer, the youth picked up arms and drove the Dinka Bor and their livestock out of Greater Mundri.
Incursion of Dinka Agar and Atwot
The second difficulty arose with the incursion of armed Agar and Atwot Dinka herders from Rumbek and Yirol respectively. As neighbors and in the past, they used to come with their livestock to the northern areas of Mundri in the dry season and return to their homelands at the onset of the rains. Their movement was however monitored and controlled by the chiefs on both sides. Consequently, there were no problems.
But as early as 2003/4 these group of herders began to move into northern Greater Mundri (Mvolo area) but with a much changed behavior. They began to misbehave exactly as the Dinka Bor usd. For this reason, violent clashes began between them and the Jur community of northern Mundri. By 2011, those herders had penetrated deep into the Greater Mundri and were establishing cattle camps in areas which the people use as hunting grounds or for honey gathering. They killed those who confronted them and burnt several homesteads. The county authorities were unable to control them as they were armed. The atrocities they committed were widely reported on by the county authorities, the NGOs and even carried by the news media. Yet, there were no responses either by the National Government in Juba or the State Government in Yambio.
Attempts at resolution of the impending crisis
As relationships got worse, the NGO Mundri Relief and Development Association (MRDA) arranged two meetings for the concerned government authorities, one in Rumbek and the other at Mundri. But the recommendations were not operationalized. In view of the failure of the meetings to tackle the problem and total silence from either the State Authorities at Yambio and the National Government in Juba, the youth decided and reorganized to fight and drive off the herders in defense of their people and land. As clashes increased, Juba got alarmed and a meeting was called by the Security at Mundri on January 16, 2015. The meeting was attended by the Governor of Western Equatoria, Joseph Bakasoro, the Deputy Governor of Lakes and Senior Security Officers from Juba. A number of recommendations were adopted one of which was to send a delegation to speak to the youth. But the delegation, composed of local elders and clergy, had no mandate to make commitment to the demands of the youth and so was not successful. In the meantime clashes escalated between the youth on one hand and the herders on the other and in that clash the herders were openly supported by the Dinka dominated military garrison at Mundri.
The events described above radically changed the relationship between the youth (now armed) of Greater Mundri and the Government. Those were: apart from inaction on the part of the government, there was an open collusion between the Dinka herders and the Dinka dominated army and security personnel at Mundri. The army and security supplied the herders with weapons and ammunition and sometimes joined the herders in the clashes. Secondly, despite knowing clearly that the people (youth) took arms to drive away the herders, the Security personnel at Mundri continued to misinform Juba that, the people had rebelled and were fighting the Government. Hence, surveillance was heightened and killings began in Mundri by ‘unknown gun men’; which of course were the Dinka security agents in town. At this point in time, the collusion between the government army, the security agents and the herders were so high that the people began to see the government and the herders as one and the same; and bent to fight and kill them. That’s made more youth to join the group holding out in the forest. This situation was exacerbated by threats and ultimatums from Division Six Commander, Major General Johnson Juma Okot in Maridi and reinforced by other threats from Juba by the Ministers of Defence Kuol Manyang and of National Security Obutu Mamur, about crushing the youth if they did not surrender. Additionally, the Minister of Information Michael Makuei called them criminals. On the contrary, instead of frightening the youth those utterances only served for them to get more recruits and hardened the determination to fight in defence of their people and land from a well-armed and heartless Dinka dominated Government in Juba and their puppets in Mundri.
Getting allies/with/joining SPLM-IO
From the above it is manifestly clear that the reasons for which the youth of Greater Mundri took up arms pre-date the Government/IO conflict. It is rooted in their fear that the Dinka and their cattle are bent on taking over of their ancestral land. Since fighting the Dinka pastoralists, backed by the might of the Dinka dominated government, is no easy task, they began to look for allies. And given the adage that, ‘Your enemy’s enemy is your friend”, the youth voiced their support to the SPLM/IO of Dr. Riek Machar Teng, which at that time had begun to fight the same Government in Juba. In doing so, they saw no contradiction because they also believed in reforms in governance and in the party which Dr. Riek Machar and other SPLM party leaders were calling for. In fact, the reasons that led to the youth of Greater Mundri to pick up arms to fight the herders and later the government are the same reasons that have made the other communities of Equatoria (e.g. Madi, Bari, Pajulu, Kuku, Zande, Mundari, Luluba, Kakuwa, Baka, Mondo, Avokaya, Murle, and Toposa among others) to fight the Dinka dominated government in Juba. Therefore, there is need for UN and IGAD High Level Revitalization Panel to address these issues, so as to achieve lasting peace in Mundri and South Sudan at large.
Summary of the reasons for conflict in Mundri area
The main reasons that compelled the youth of Greater Mundri to fight invading Dinka pastoralists and later to confront the Government can be listed as:
The aggressive and unacceptable behavior of the pastoralists, the destruction of crops and degradation of the environment by their livestock, coupled with lack of respect for the cultural and traditional norms of the people.
These behavior and practices included:
- Making cattle camps wherever they wanted to, without consultation and/or permission from the owners;
- Building fires in cattle camps that killed and/or drove away the bees, ignoring importance of these bees in pollination and maintenance of ecosystems;
- Cutting down the trees which the people use for placing their beehives;
- Allowing their livestock to destroy crops and aggressively threatening, beating up or killing of any person who dared to complain about the destruction of his/her crops. Often the retort was ‘uwa bi akol wen’ (where would it eat).
The lack of respect to local authorities, elders, chiefs and the county authorities
The herders did not respect the indigenous elders, chiefs and local authorities, would not obey and consequently accept to be disciplined by the local authorities, because they were armed.
They without permission harvested fruits (mangoes) from people’s homesteads. They even set up parallel courts and local authorities.
Arrogance, aggressiveness and impunity by the herders
Because the government in Juba, the army, police and national security are dominated by the Dinka, and some of them had cattle in greater Mundri area under care of Dinka herders, the herders felt the government was/is theirs and therefore could do anything to others with impunity. This is the reason for their aggressiveness and lack of respect for the other tribes. Indeed, when there is a fight between them and a non-Dinka, quite often, the Dinka officers in the security services do show partiality towards them.
Insensitivity and inaction on the part of the SPLM (during the war) and by the post Agreement Governments of South Sudan to address their grievances
During the war, though SPLM Chairman John Garang agreed to do something about disarmament and repatriation of Dinka Bor to their lands, nothing tangible and effective was done as the herders continued to stay until 2007. After the war, both the State and National Governments cared not to intervene to rescue the situation. This failure compelled the youth to take up arms to drive out the herders.
Collusion between Dinka herders and the Dinka dominated army, security and police at Mundri and elsewhere in Greater Mundri
It was an open secret that the Dinka dominated army at Mundri was very partial to their kinsfolk in the cattle camps. They even used to supply them with arms and ammunition. This collusion convinced the people that indeed the government was of the Dinka and for the Dinka and their lives and property did not matter to the government.
Indiscriminate condemnation, ultimatums and threats by senior government officials in Juba without appreciating and addressing the grievances
Efforts towards resolution of the conflict were thwarted by the incessant condemnation, threats and ultimatums by senior government officials (Kuol Manyang, Obutu Mamur in Juba; General Johnson Juma in Maridi and the local MP Hon. Joseph Ngere, now Governor of Amadi State) of imminent unleashing of government arsenal to crush the youth.
Alienation through indiscriminate use of lethal weapons
When fighting intensified, the Government resorted to using lethal weapons like gunships and aerial bombardment in total disregard of civilians. Consequently, many persons were killed. As may be recalled, the indiscriminate use of lethal weapons is a crime against humanity for which President Assad of Syria is being fought by the international community. In fact, the Government’s use of lethal weapons against civilians was either equal to or worse than what the Government of Khartoum did in the last SPLM/A war. The lack of concern for their lives convinced the people further that indeed Kiir’s Dinka dominated and Dinka inspired Government in Juba did not care for their lives, simply because they were not Dinkas.
Destruction of homes, arrest and killing of several civilians especially young men
The army at Mundri looted and destroyed Mundri town as witnessed by a church delegation on 3rd November, 2015. In fact, at the sight of the destruction, Bishop Paride Taban shed tears. It can be boldly stated that the army units at Mundri, Lui, Lanyi, and ‘Buägyi have blood in their hands. They are known to have arrested several innocent youth and killed them without due process on the mere suspicion that they either were rebels or their collaborators. An example is the recent killing of three students Mamur Gyalingo Mana, William Sebit and Allison Avu’bu at Mundri by the soldiers as they slept in their hut on 30 August, 2017, Babi Gasim Arona and Munya Gyalingo Mana killed at Bari on November 24,2017 during the military operation, which also resulted to the disappearance of a medical assistant Mr. Godwin Natana Ibidri Abraham. It can be recalled that South Sudan Government Army in Mundri shot dead a student of Karika Primary School Mr. Taban Kurisipo Adungwa who was a youth leader at Karika Parish of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, Diocese of Mundri in Mundri West county. The army also burnt down more than fifty (50) civilian houses, looted thirty five goats and some food of Karika Community. This incident occurred on November 4, 2017 and late Taban was buried on November 5, 2017.The South Sudan Government army have maintained their presence at Kotobi and Karika till today and continue to loot food items, burn down civilian houses, torture and kill innocent civilians, forcing them to stay in the bushes till today.
In a related development, the government army who are now stationed at Bari primary school and Bari health unit in Mundri West county, Amadi State, on November 23, 2017, used cluster chemical bombs on civilians at Bari, killing eight persons and affecting five others , including women and children, looted food and burnt houses of innocent civilians and fought with SPLA/M IO Forces in the area. All civilians at Goli, Bari, Medewu, Ladingwa and Bangolo totaling about 60,000 people have now gone into hidings in the bush, suffering without, food, water, medicine and shelter and are in urgent need of humanitarian relief assistance. It is worth mentioning that these civilians can only come back to their homes if the government army withdraws from these locations, as they are now afraid of the government army presence.
The way forward
Globally, conflicts can begin at the national level and filter down to local levels. They can also begin at the local level and grow to be national ones. In both cases, once this has happened, the conflict can only be solved at the national level. It is deceitful that, while the conflict is raging in the whole country a peaceful solution can be achieved at the local level. As the case is, history is replete with failures of such endeavors. At home, we can recall how miserably the Government of Sudan failed to bring complete peace with say Dr. Riek’s SSIM, the Anyanya II or the multitude of renegade generals. And as we know it, peace only came at the national level with the CPA. Hence, it is our strong belief the local peace agreements being signed by Kiir’s agents with renegade groups at Yei, Yambio, Liech and elsewhere are futile and will not bring any total peace to the people of South Sudan.
It is thus the belief of the youth of Greater Mundri that, since their grievances have now been so much intertwined with the national disagreements, the UN and IGAD’s upcoming revitalization of the agreement should take into account their grievances within the wider national context as part of SPLA/M IO grievances. This is true because the problems they have been facing with Dinka pastoralists is also being faced by numerous other tribes in South Sudan, particularly in Equatoria. We have the pleasure to list below some of issues which we strongly feel should be addressed during the upcoming peace talks being organized by IGAD.
- Ending the domination of the army, police, security, immigration, customs and other regulatory bodies by the Dinka ethnic group; there should be fair and just representation of the 64 tribes in these institutions.
- Ending the unfair domination of the national civil service by the Dinka so that a just and fair treatment can be extended to all ethnic groups. This would mitigate against preferential treatment as well as minimize the current practice to use Dinka language in official communication between officers, especially in Immigration offices.
- Devolving more powers and resources to the States and reducing the excessive powers of the President to dismiss elected Governors (over riding the will of the people)
- Institute system of checks and balances that will restrain / prohibit the President from transforming himself into the constitution and the law.
- Enact laws and institute mechanisms to regulate the movement of cattle and permissible numbers of cattle per unit area all over South Sudan.
- Return of all grabbed land to the rightful owners
- Notwithstanding the right of citizens to live and settle in any part of South Sudan, this must be done with the consent of the indigenous people and without trembling on their rights. This would minimize land grabbing
- The President’s Republican Order Number 17 for the year 2017 to have all livestock owners from Jonglei and Lakes to drive their cattle out of Equatoria and back to their home land should be enforced; a high level body with sufficient power and resources should be tasked to effect it within a specified time period. Thereafter a mechanism, should be created to regulate and monitor future movements of the herders and of cattle in general.
- The earlier existing mechanisms that controlled and regulated the seasonal migrations of herders into Equatoria should be revived and made operational. Such mechanisms should as was the case in the past, be operationalized by the chiefs and district authorities through regular border meetings.
- Disarmament, Demobilization, Reinsertion and Reintegration must and should be an integral part of the revitalized agreement. There must be a strong civilian disarmament component of the program. Otherwise, with the proliferation of arms as seen today, there will be no peace in South Sudan in the foreseeable future.
- Revitalization of 2015 peace agreement with full participation of all signatories and current parties in dispute. This process must not be left open ended but must be time bound, so as to end the suffering of innocent South Sudanese.
- Release of SPLA/M IO Chairman and commander in chief Dr. Riek Machar Teny from detention in South Africa and permit him to participate fully in the revitalization of 2015 peace agreement with his team. This is because, he controls majority of armed rebel/opposition forces in the bushes of South Sudan and is one of the key signatories to 2015 South Sudan peace agreement.
- Speedy deployment of UN Regional Protection Force, with a redefined political objective to support, to Juba and other contested areas, so as to provide security, restore law and order thus enabling the South Sudanese parties to achieve peace.
- Put a mechanism in place to punish or hold accountable any party who refuses to sign, implement or fails to implement the revitalized (reinvigorated and revised) 2015 peace agreement.
- The government of South Sudan must declare and observe an immediate, genuine, ceasefire, stop further arrests, torture and detention without trial of members of opposition groups and allow free movement of people in and out of South Sudan, regardless of which political party, tribe or group they belong to. Use of food as a weapon by South Sudan government is against human rights, international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflicts and must be stopped with immediate effect. An agreed, comprehensive and permanent ceasefire involving all armed groups, including government and all opposition forces, should be an objective at the early stages of the revitalization process.
- The government of South Sudan must allow free movement of all humanitarian workers and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to all needy areas in Mundri and people of South Sudan, regardless as to who controls these areas. However, the humanitarian workers should not be accompanied by government army/security or their representatives.
- Include all opposition groups, political parties and civil society groups in the revitalization process of 2015 peace agreement, so that whatever is agreed upon will become binding and result to a lasting peace in South Sudan.
- Reconstitution of the new parliament and formation of new National and State cabinets must be nationally, regionally, geographically, ethnically and tribally balanced, based on competency, experience, dedication and integrity.
- Urgent Airdroping of relief food, shelter/tents, cooking pots, clean drinking water in plastic bags and medicine to the suffering population of Great Mundri at Bari, Koto’bi, Karika, Medewu, Ladingwa, Bangolo, Tore, Lozo and Kedi’ba.
- Immediate withdrawal of South Sudan Government army from Bari, Medewu, Koto’bi, Karika, Lui, Lanyi, ‘Buagyi, Jambo and Lozo, so as to allow civilian populations of these areas to return back to their homes to resettle and rehabilitate their lives.Withdrawal of the South Sudan government army will also allow humanitarian workers to reach these internal displaced persons easily by land.
Rev. Wesley Bokati Natana Abrahm
Episcopal Church of South Sudan
Diocese of Mundri
December 14, 2017