Disarmament alone is not enough in Jonglei State

By Majok Nikodemo Arou

March 28, 2012 (SSNA) — Despite undergoing efforts of the South Sudan Government to disarm the hostile communities in the Jonglei State, more down to earth measures are required to prevent a potential rearmament.

Given long borders with Ethiopia and a neighbouring staunch enemy that stoops to conquer and ready to invest over local tribal feuds, challenges remain as the arms may continue to flow again into South Sudan even after the disarmament.

In the light of good ties with Ethiopia, the government could engage Ethiopia, especially the regional government that shares borders with South Sudan. There have been plans in this respect. This author is unaware about the results though.

With the issue of the North Sudan government’s intervention, it would be very difficult to tackle unless the local communities get dissuaded about the rearmament through incentives such as provision of effective governmental protection of their properties and lives.

Apart from the development plans that could help ease the tensions, there is a need to revisit how the Condominium Rule had established the rule of law and order in South Sudan. Not exactly to copy what the colonialists did, but to study how they finally managed to forge the cordial relations with the local chiefs to rein in the frequent revolts and disobedience. The efforts of the Condominium Rule were not all rosy, albeit they had helped the government so much to enforce the Rule of Law.

Indeed the role of local chiefs has been so far eroded to the extent that they no longer play an active role in ruling their communities. Why? The answer is simple. Their powers have been reduced to the extent that their subjects no longer give them due respect. For instance, the minor cases they used to settle had been referred to the formal courts.

To tackle the issues of the cattle raiding, the local chiefs can play a pivotal role to curb it if they are empowered. A sub chief for instance knows the source of any gun or a cow in his payam. Those who hail from the pastoralist background are aware that a clan, for instance, knows the source of any cow in the village because it is a close knit group. It is a common knowledge there a cow comes either as a dowry or bought in an auction or other known sources. In this area a sub chief could help in identifying the raided cattle if protected fully by the government from subsequent intimidation by youth involved in the illegal activities!

If protected from the intimidation, he could also help the government effectively in the current disarmament efforts, and may be in prevention of rearmament.

So the local chiefs should be delegated more powers in their jurisdiction in cooperation with the law enforcement authorities. The local chiefs’ benefits should be increased to motivate them. Through constant protection the chiefs could cooperate fully in the disarmament efforts without fear from a reprisal.

Another unfortunate point is that there has been rumours circulated that some of the regular forces had joined their communities in the recent raids. The South Sudan law enforcement authorities can check and investigate to bring unruly soldiers to book.

The Ministry of Justice can set up a special tribunal to deal promptly with the raiding, child abduction and other related cases in cooperation with the local chiefs and community leaders.

Frankly, the hostilities have reached the peak that the communities involved would like to bring them to an end. Nonetheless the fear from each other fuels the tension. Hopefully, more checkpoints are required in the counties and payams in cooperation with the local chiefs.

Finally, some members of the Jonglei State communities in Diaspora are unfortunately rekindling the tensions. One wonders whether they read the history of their host countries to draw lessons on the nation building. The agitation they are indulged in tantamount to the dissemination of hatred that add insult to injury.

The author is a South Sudanese journalist and can be reached at [email protected]    

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