Bentiu — Local leaders in Unity state called for a new round of voluntarily civilian disarmament at a two-day conference in Bentiu last week to address the issue of violent crime and cattle raiding.
The conference, facilitated by the Conflict Mitigation and Stabilization Initiative (CMSI) brought chiefs, executives directors, civil society groups and police officers from Unity state's nine counties together to discuss how to persuade civilians to handover illegal arms to government.
Previous disarmament campaigns have not persuaded many groups, especially young men who are responsible for keeping cattle, to handover the weapons, although on each occasion some weapons were collected.
At the conclusion of the conference on Friday those taking part blamed the government for failing to set up proper mechanisms in the past for handing over illegal arms.
Gabriel Tuak Yarok, a local chief who participated in the conference even accused members of South Sudan's army (SPLA) of selling arms collected in disarmament campaigns back to civilians.
The chief said that the community, government and security forces "need to work together" to ensure that civilians do not posses illegal firearms.
Yarok urged the government to give the police and local chiefs the primary role in collecting guns from civilians rather than using the army.
Tito Gatchang Keah, a participant from Payinjiar County, said that in order for the disarmament to be peaceful it had to be carried out through influential local chiefs, rather than the forceful tactics used by the military.
"If you use forceful disarmament they are going to react and people are going to fight and death will occur again of which we don't want", added Keah.
He called on organisations to facilitate further conferences at county, payam [district], boma [sub-district] and village level in order to disarmament to be successful.
Samuel Chuol Thon, a colonel in the South Sudan Police Services, told the conference that it has been very hard to enforce law and order due to unrest caused by cattle raiding across state borders.
He agreed that responsibility for disarmament should be shared between chiefs and the police and would be a "success" if the different arms of the government worked in coordination.
"We are going to help the government to disarm these guns from the civilians hands, because people are dying and there is no need for them to die again so it is good that the government has decided to do this point", said Thon.
Communities in rural areas who handover their weapons usually complain that they are left unprotected from cattle raiding, which is a major problem in South Sudanese society.
Addressing the participants at the conference in Bentiu, Unity State's deputy governor, Michael Chiengjeik, urged local chiefs to fully engage with the voluntarily disarmament exercise but warned that failure to would lead to forceful disarmament.