Hundreds of people have been killed in inter-communal violence raging in South Sudan’s Jonglei state in recent weeks, and the cycle of attacks and revenge attacks is only going to continue if the national government fails to establish a rule of law that holds cattle raiders and other criminals accountable, according to one Juba-based analyst.
On Tuesday, President Salva Kiir issued a presidential decree forming a committee to resolve ongoing inter-communal violence involving the Dinka Bor, the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes in Greater Jonglei. In his decree, Kiir said he expects the panel to ensure that stability is restored in the area within the next 21 days.
Vice President James Wani Igga will head the committee. Interior Minister Paul Mayom Akec and other senior officials have been appointed to the panel.
The panel’s formation is a good first move, but stacking it with senior politicians in Juba may not solve the problem, said Abraham Kuol, professor of political science at the University of Juba.
“The committee is composed of major politicians and secondly, the people that might represent those communities might also come from Juba, and as a result of that, there is going to be … superficiality,” Kuol said to VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.
He suggests appointing community leaders and paramount chiefs from the affected areas to the panel so that the root problems driving the inter-communal violence will be addressed, not the least of which is the absence of justice for past crimes committed.
“The government does not make the people who are culprits responsible for their mistakes and as a result of that it encourages them because the government is not doing anything. So, apart from the committee, there should be serious laws that should be put in place that should be able to deter people from such practices,” Kuol told VOA.
In the past, the government has initiated campaigns to disarm civilians but they have failed to end the escalating cycle of violence in Greater Jonglei and Lakes and Warrap states.
In 2018, Vice President Taban Deng Gai was sent to the region to try to mediate between communities involved in cattle raids and other inter-communal attacks. He met with traditional chiefs and political leaders in hopes of finding ways to reconcile the warring communities.
Gai failed on his diplomacy mission in part because he was talking to the wrong people.
“He was dealing with intellectuals and political perspectives of how to resolve these problems and as a result of that, that is why it failed. Some of the conferences need not be done in the major towns, they need to be done in the villages, let’s say the most remote areas of these communities; not in Pibor, not in Bor town, not in Juba, but in a very local place like payams [villages] so that the people affected should be part and parcel of the peace process,” Kuol told VOA.
The ongoing violence in Greater Jonglei is driven in no small part by an endless competition for resources, according to Kuol.
“One of the major resources that are bringing the problem here is both the cattle resources and the human capital. The cattle resources is that people would wish to own as much cattle as possible and the second issue is that there are people who don’t want to take care of their own children and keep their biological children but they want to make sure they take other people’s children,” said Kuol.
Kuol said Greater Jonglei needs a program that will come up with concrete solutions to end the clashes once and for all which he said must include the proper administration of law and order.
Carol Van Dam Falk contributed to this report.