Pastoralists Invading Yeri, Western Equatoria, South Sudan

 By Wesley Kosa

Herds of cattle passing the streets of South Sudan capital, Juba, May 2015(Photo credit: Lokuowe Gordon/Nyamilepedia)

Herds of cattle passing the streets of South Sudan capital, Juba, May 2015(Photo credit: Lokuowe Gordon/Nyamilepedia)

May 10, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — The recent movement of large herds of cattle across South Sudan had never been the case during the colonial era and after the independence of Sudan. Indeed, the cattle rustling have always been there but it was confined among cattle keepers only. Majority of people in Equatorians are farmers, and farming is their lifeline just as cattle herding is to the pastoralists. But since the independence of South Sudan, we have witnessed over and over again the movement of a huge population of cattle that are aimed at invading the land of the agrarian population for the purpose of permanently occupying them. This has always created insecurity in the area resulting in suffering of the venerable communities in the area giving birth to full scale conflict.

Most recently South Sudanese President Kiir issued a Presidential decree that restricts people’s movement as precautionary measures to deal with COVID-19. Unfortunately recently the pastoralist communities disregarded these measures and invaded Yeri, Western Equatoria with a significant population of cattle. As we all know this is an agricultural season that people are cultivating and preparing for the harvest in coming months. With the arrival of cattle in the area, which were intentionally made to graze on the farm land, all those crops will be destroyed exposing the communities to starvation. The timing of these attacks are well calculated and intended to cause insecurity in the area so that vulnerable communities can be exposed to inhuman suffering enabling the pastoralists to forcefully take over the land and change the name of the area according to their own desires. It’s believed that once they settle in Yeri, then they would then move to Mundri then the entire Equatoria Region. Right now Yeri is just being used as an entry point. Learning from the past experience, this is the beginning of a full scale conflict if it is not contained, because we believe that the government is backing those pastoralists militarily by supplying them with heavy weapons and ammunition.

Since last week, there has always been broad day-light systematic attack on the population in Yeri, and right now people are hiding in the bushes to save their lives, exposing them to risky and unhealthy lifestyles. All these are happening, and the very government whose sole responsibilities and obligations are supposed to be to maintain and keep security and protect its people is quiet. This indicates the contention that these pastoralists are implementing government policy of land grabbing because to this day the government has not moved in to protect the people in Yeri. Most communities in South Sudan have witnessed this ruthless and savage behaviour of the pastoralists whom the government is pretending to be unable to contain. 

There is no single reason for those pastoralists to move to Yeri because this is the rainy season in South Sudan the grazing land is abundant and water points are available for them to remain in their own areas. What people have witnessed in these continuous attacks is that the kind of weapons that are being used are heavy machine guns, some of them are carrying rocket- propelled grenades (RPG)and their attack-style proves that these are not ordinary people, they are well trained. The community members totally believe that this is government backed armed pastoralists mandated to cause insecurity, invade, occupy, and trigger full scale conflict. We have witnessed it before and this time along they have come again to repeat the same plan.

We are appealing to the International community, IGAD, AU and all the peace loving people in the World, to come to rescue our people from the hands of these barbaric agents of the government of President Kiir. This is clearly the policy of the government and it is one of the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan. As I write this, the Yeri area is completely deserted, people are hiding in bushes and it has created insecurity in the area. Where is the peace that the government is talking about all the time? Where is the dividend of peace that the government said they have brought to people?

We are peace loving people and all we are demanding is for the pastoralists return peacefully with their cattle to their original homes. Since the government has failed to protect our people, it’s the responsibility and obligations of the International community, IGAD and AU to protect us and maintain peace in Yeri. We hope that you care enough to come to rescue and protect our helpless vulnerable people whose lives have been placed in jeopardy by the very government that is supposed to protect them.

The author is a Concerned Citizen of Western Equatoria, South Sudan. For more information he can be reached at wbkosa@hotmail.com


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