By Adia Jildo
The Executive director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization Mr. Edmund Yakani has called on President Salva Kiir Mayardit to respond to the growing tension that is between the pastoralists and farmers in Magwi county of Eastern Equatoria state and Kajo-Keji of Central Equatoria State.
Last week, Members of Parliament in the National Legislature representing Magwi community wrote an open letter to the President demanding for an immediate evacuation of armed cattle keepers and their cattle which were causing insecurity in the region.
In the statement to the President, the representatives said the influx of cattle had led to destruction of crops, looting, and abduction of local people making them take refuge in nearby places.
Yakani said, “it seems there is no response in the leadership whether national or state government. At National level, we need the response of President Salva Kiir. This culture of having a deaf ear or no timely response to such situation is setting a very bad image. Things are not normal and things are not going on as usual. Things are turning to one situation and might end up one day into genocide in the front and in the eye of the President”.
He said there is need for immediate response by both the national and state governments before the situation gets out of hand.
Yakani said pastoralists are carrying modern weapons which are used as threat to the host communities.
“Of recent, there is growing hate speech and hostile propaganda among the communities of the pastoralists and the farmers. The hostile propaganda and hate speech have reached to the level where messages are coming out that communities are arming themselves for possible confrontation. This tension is a result of competition of the use of land for farming and cattle grazing” he said.
According to Yakani, there are accusations that pastoralists are having a training ground for any eventuality and a video had been roaming of well-armed pastoralists.
Based on these as an activist, Yakani said, “I would like to call on the leaders of the council to act on these particular growing negative signs against pastoralists and farmers. My appeal in particular goes to the President to intervene by constituting a committee to look into this particular issue”.
“My call goes to the speaker of the parliament specifically speaker of the Council of States to establish a committee of legislatures to go and access the situation because we will be taken by surprise when the violence breakout by the pastoralists and farmers and it will be too late to respond” he added.
He said that the commissioner of Magwi had made several statements about the tension which might escalate to war if not responded to.
Louis Lobong Lojore, the governor of Eastern Equatoria had also raised alarm regarding the presence of the pastoralists in farming areas threatening the return of refugees.
Lobong said the refugees complained of returning voluntarily due to occupation of their land by cattle keepers.
Yakani stated that, “all these political statements are now developing to instant negativity where it might end up in a complete and deadly fight between the pastoralists and farmers in Eastern Equatoria”.
He claimed most cattle owners are based in Juba and called on the cattle owners to take full responsibility of their cattle by warning their cattle keepers not to cause threat to the farmers.
He cautioned the ownership of the new modern weapons which are being used for safeguarding the cattle and cattle keepers.
“This tension between the pastoralist and farmers may increase starvation in the country and the chance of the country facing starvation crimes is very high. There is increase of starvation crimes without any accountability” he said.