By Professor Simon Elhag Kulusika and;
Sophie M. Chibale,
May 14, 2021 — Ethnic conflicts resulting in mass killings are not emerging phenomena in South Sudan (SS). They occurred in the past and will continue with grievous consequences if no concrete measures are taken to bring the clashes to an end. Such clashes are widespread in South Sudan. For example, Warrap, Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and some parts of Equatoria states. Akobo, Pibor, Paucala and Boma mount areas are occupied by many small ethnic sub – groups belonging to Nuer, Annuak, Murle, Taposa, Parri, Latuka Dinka, etc. The areas mentioned are between 5 – 7 months submerged under water. Little land is left for humans and herds. So competition is fierce leading to bloody clashes. During the dry spell of 4 – 5 months little water is left in isolated ponds for humans and herds, another cause of clashes. These sub- groups do not have chiefs as traditional leaders. They have Bully who emerged as a strong man to lead. If he succeeds in this he remains on the top or another Bully will take-over. Many such Bully from the other sub – group compete resulting in clashes between them. The State or national Government can do nothing to stop these events as the areas during rainy seasons are not accessible, except by Choppers hovering over!!
Here are some suggestions. They should apply to all Marshlands and people without leaders: Nilotics and some Nilo – Hamatics.
1. Deliberate policy to introduce a system of rule by persons appointed as leaders with specific authority and power to issue instructions and binding commands. At present in these areas ‘All men are equal’ No man issues order or obeys orders. It is only necessity or dangers that create front men.
2. Canals and artificial ponds to be constructed to store water for the dry seasons for use by people and animals. This will reduce fighting over water. The canals will also provide means of transport by fast moving boats to link those areas and enable administrators and security authorities to move quickly to provide services or to contain clashes. Canals and reservoirs can also be utilized for irrigating farms thereby improving life styles.
3. But there is need to put stress on 1 that it needs sensitization of people by both Government and NGOs. So that people appreciate and understand the importance of traditional governance. It should lead, issue commands that bind everybody in the areas concerned. The campaign will be long and expensive. But it must be done for change to take place in South Sudan.
4. Lands reclaimed and others should be used for educational purposes: construction of schools, institutes and colleges, etc. these facilities will enable children of herders get education rather than doing herding. Governments should also provide mobile health care services and vet services as part of government development efforts. The provision of these services will encourage herders to stay in their present lands rather than trekking far to grab lands.
5. Government should enact legislation to outlaw lands grabbing, cattle raids, theft of animals and inter-communal conflicts. Any person who commits any such crimes, including incitement of ethnic clashes or warfare must be punished by a minimum of 15 years’ imprisonment with hard labour and shall be liable to suffer death where lives are lost. The defendant property may be confiscated after investigations. Deterrence should be the focus.
Colonial administrations, government in Khartoum and the Executive Council (HEC) for southern Sudan had attempted to quell ethnic disturbances but no meaningful results attained. There were defects in their actions. Eg, their main aim was to separate the warring parties, without addressing the causes of the clashes. They also resort to confiscation of heads of Cattle or goats of one side or both without investigation. This action had aroused resentment by one of the sides in the conflicts who were affected by such measures as they were treated as selective and discriminatory. The measures were unfair as the victims of the moment might have been the culprits of yesterday. In addition no incentives offered to both sides to encourage peaceful co-existence. More facilitative approaches are required to curb ethnic clashes, not only in Jonglei state but also in other parts of South Sudan. The characteristics of the new methods should involve: promotion of understanding, reconciliation and satisfaction.
The means employed should include consistent and widespread campaigns, informative dialogues and communication, building of strong traditional rules, without injuring the confederate system the Dinka and Nuer have for many centuries. These are to be supported by making lands and waters available to herders throughout the year. Also the provision of modernization services coupled with imposition of penalty against those inciting ethnic conflicts as preventive measures.
The suggested canals are not the same as the Jonglei canal proposed by Sudan governments in the past. That abortive canal was going to cause serious damages to the Wetlands environment as the opponents rightly argued at various Times when the project was to be implemented leading to drastic changes to the original plan dictated by Khartoum on the HEC with instigation from Egypt. One of the opponents was the coauthors of this article. At the time it was stressed that a safe canal should offer protection and conservation of the environments of the entire regions of the swamps.
The new canals are supposed to be localized, e.g. for Akobo areas, or areas around Zaraf, or areas around Yirol or areas southwest of Kapoeta or Boma mount. The canals are to be designed in special ways. To keep water at a given level throughout the swampy areas during rainy seasons so that water does not rise high to submerge grazing lands. The canals should carry enough water so that they can be used for transport purposes. The canals should only absorb excess waters from the swamps without draining out waters as the Jonglei canal was supposed to do. The canals should be about 30 – 50 km long, two of these to be joined at both ends by an arch of about 15 – 20 km in diameters. Water flows in the parallel canals circular and clockwise to ensure a good level of water in the canals. In the event of water level in the canals has risen too high, the excesses should be discharged into reservoirs or rivers through steel gates. Such mechanisms will protect and conserve the environment of the region.
History tells us that most, if not all countries of the world, had or have witnessed ethnic conflicts. Some countries succeeded because leadership was determined to act together to positively manage ethnic conflicts. South Sudan needs this kind of resoluteness to fight successfully the evils of ethnicity, a cardinal requirement for nation building. God shall save South Sudan.
Sophie M. Chibale Professor Simon Elhag Kulusika
ZAOU Associate Professor of Law
Lusaka – Zambia Lusaka – Zambia
+260973351506 +260 960587918
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