South Sudan peace partners should disarm allied tribal militias

By Tor Madira Machier

Opinion

Tor Madira Machier (Photo credit: Penton Keah)

March 5th 2019 (Nyamilepedia) – South Sudan government and opposition groups (SPLM-IO, the SSOA the Former Detainees and the Juba-based Other Political Parties) signed a revitalized version of the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) to end the ongoing civil war.

Although the agreement did not address what all the parties wanted, it is a very important platform on which basis all the political differences by these warring groups could be addressed so that security measures viable for achieving permanent stability in the country could then be undertaken.

One very important and interesting issue the author will address here is the role of ethnic militias allied to the South Sudan parties by virtue of tribe towards the agreement.

South Sudan conflict has an ethnic undertone. Members of the Dinka tribe in this conflict have mostly supported the government of President Salva Kiir. The Nuer have mostly supported the rebel movement of Riek Machar. The parties mobilized these tribal militias mostly on tribal grounds and have since fought the war pursuing tribal agendas rather than national causes.

The most dramatic part of it is that the parties to the peace agreement have little control over these tribal elements of their allies. Sometimes, these militias carry out attacks against rival militias or civilians in areas controlled by one of the parties to the conflict without the prior knowledge of, or directives from field commanders of allied parties.

This has caused confusions and complications as to why the permanent ceasefire agreement signed by the parties in June 2018 has not been respected by rival militaries on the ground despite promises by leaders at peace talks in Khartoum and Addis Ababa.

Women in South Sudan’s Unity State have repeated complained of sexual harassment by armed men along roads leading from and to Bentiu, the state capital. The same thing is as well taking place in Jonglei, Upper Nile and the Equatoria region including outskirts of the capital Juba.

Beside politicized ethnic militiamen, killings over cattle rustling has continued in the country’s Lakes State fitting ethnic armed youths from one clan against the other. There has been recently a cross-border cattle raid between Mayom in Unity state and Tonj in Warrab state killing hundreds.

The same fighting and killings of innocent lives has also been taking place between the Lou-Nuer and the Murle Youth in Jonglei state in recent weeks. These attacks have led to the demise of innocent lives of children, women and elderly people.

These atrocities and continued violation of the ceasefire agreement by ethnic militiamen highlights how fragile the South Sudan peace agreement has become as result of arming civilians with no national causes in them.

In this case, an action by South Sudan leaders, both in the government and the opposition, is much needed.

To achieve and maintain peace and stability across the country, the government and the main armed opposition led by the First Vice-President designate, Riek Machar – both of whom are signatories to the revitalized agreement – needs to disarm tribal militias allied to each.

The presence of armed tribal entities such as the so-called Mathiang Anyor, the White Army, and the Gojom as well as Murle tribal militiamen who have been frequently involved in kidnapping children from neighbors undermines South Sudan’s efforts for permanent peace and stability.

Having them as proxies in this conflict will jeopardize efforts to achieve that permanent peace and stability we always talk of in the Republic of South Sudan.

The author – Tor Madira Machier – is a South Sudanese journalist and the Nyamilepedia Editor-in-chief. He can be reached via: tormadira2013@gmail.com


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