By Loro Louis Yugu
I have heard a lot of noise about the predicaments of peaceful coexistence between farmers who keep animals often referred to as cattle keepers and those who grow crops popularly known as farmers in the context of South Sudan.
Those who grow crops often point fingers at the cattle keepers for violence and destruction of their crops by the cattle. It is worth mentioning that a number of cattle keepers from other states have chosen some parts of Equatoria to be their grazing land and hence there are millions of cattle grazing freely especially in Central Equatoria and parts of Eastern Equatoria states. The ugly fact is that these so called cattle keepers carry heavy machine guns that would have been used to fight rebels instead of terrorizing farmers whose guns are hoes for fighting the looming hunger in the country. It is widely believed that a bushy area with a cattle camp is often insecure for farmers and those who are involved in hunting and charcoal activities.
Indeed if the herders were peaceful and have respect for human soul, dignity and territory, they would have grazed their animals in parts of Equatoria without jeopardy. It should be noted that the unruly behaviours of the herders have made the farmers in Equatoria to think that the cattle keepers should be having a hidden agenda otherwise they would have heeded to the President’s call for their safe return to their original homeland.
But how can one come to a place where he can use one’s natural resources without resorting to conflict? This should be the question that the pastoralists should ask themselves.
Although livestock are an economic mainstay for many pastoral families across South Sudan, cattle have become a source of human suffering claiming thousands of lives through violent raids.
This time around, the Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries should wake up in the slumber land and formulate better policies to regulate unnecessary movement of cattle to avoid violent confrontations in the near future.
It is very important to prevent conflicts from escalating into bloody confrontations between the farmers and herders because most of the pastoralists are illiterate and are unaware of laws of encroachment, they only mind of their animals.
Therefore, unless the government massively invests in better cattle keeping practices and make agriculture more productive, the country will continue to witness violence through raiding and bitter relationship between cattle keepers and farmers.