Opinion South Sudan

The End of Cattle Raids in South Sudan

By Professor Simon Elhag Kulusika.

Associate Professor of Law,

Lusaka, Zambia

In the picture are dinka members of SPLA guarding cattles of their resettled dinka community in Western Equatoria...
In the picture are dinka members of SPLA guarding cattles of their resettled dinka community in Western Equatoria(Photo: supplied)

April 15, 2021(Nyamilepedia) — Local and international media houses have reported of widespread killings across South Sudan (SS). These killings have been attributed to Cattle raids carried by one group or groups against Cattle camps of other clans or rival ethnic groups. Doubts have also arisen as to whether the national and state governments can prevent and eliminate such raids and save the lives and property of Cattle keepers. This article is an attempt to provide some answers.

Cattle keepers the world over attach especial care to their herds. They adore them more than anything else. They are also prepared to sacrifice their lives in defense of their herds regardless of the consequences. This strict adherence to Cattle is found among the Cattle keepers in South Sudan: Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, Luo, Annuak, Lotuka, Langi, Bari, Toposa, Murle, Mundari, etc. For any man among these groups and others, Cattle is not only a property to be used in traditional rites or rituals including payment of dowry, but cattle is part of his life. He is a man respectable among his people because he owns heads of Cattle. He is Amba:Jall Dwong, BanDit.

Cattle is a symbol of pride, prestige and authority. As such any assault on his cattle must be met by like force or even more. If he has few heads of Cattle, he would do anything to increase his lots even if it meant stealing from his neighbour or trekking far away to raid some Cattle camps owned by other ethnic groups. If he is lucky he would manage to capture some heads of Cattle and drive away. In most of such raids life or lives would be lost. Those who lost their Cattle would not rest until counter raids are carried out. So the cycles of raids continue and the resultant deaths. It’s difficult to find out how the national and state governments can do to prevent and eliminate such raids. For an ordinary herder the raids are honourable thing to do. But in modern societies such raids are criminal acts and the State is obligated to prevent, stop or punish the perpetrators. Such measures were tried in the past – during colonial periods but with no success. This article suggests as follows: 

(1)  National and state governments should carry out campaigns against Cattle raids. The campaigns should be undertaken by NGOs with financial support from the two levels of government and in conjunction with UN agencies. The objectives should be to educate herders that raids are crimes and they should avoid them. That every citizen has the right to own certain animals without being deprived of those rights of property.

It is believed that education and enlightenment may change the mindset of those herders. Educational efforts should be accompanied by development schemes to lift the herders from backwards situations. 

(2)   The establishment of Cattle camps Blocks. This is a new concept and will require details. 

(3)   Law must be promulgated to deal with Cattle raids as offences. Raids carried out resulting in taking of Cattle belonging to others must be punished by a minimum of 15 years imprisonment with hard labour. If the raids resulted in injuries to others the perpetrators must be liable to life imprisonment. If lives were lost and property destroyed, the criminals must suffer death whether principal or secondary party to the raids Cattle raided, other property taken by force and offensive weapons used in the unlawful acts must be confiscated and forfeited to the State.

The above actions are vital to put an end to raids or at the least minimise their intensity and adverse effect on community peaceful coexistence. 

God shall save South Sudan.

Professor Simon Elhag Kulusika is an Associate Professor of Law in Lusaka, Zambia. He can be reached through email at sophie.chibale@zaou.ac.zm

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