Armed herders dislodge over 4,000 Magwi residents

A South Sudanese man guarding his cattle (Photo credit: unknown)

By Taban Henry

Over 4,000 residents in the villages of Agoro, Nyolo, Post Mangat and Chomboro of Magwi County have fled their homes after an attack by armed cattle keepers.

The Executive Chief of Agoro payam, Okee Joseph Oryem confirmed that huge number of people has been displaced and one wounded after cattle keepers attacked an area known as Chomboro in parts of Magwi County.

He also mentioned that at least 4 children were abducted in Nyolo Boma of Magwi County after the cattle keepers started entering the area in the beginning of this month of February.

Speaking to the No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper, the Magwi County Executive Director David Ocheng confirmed that over 4,500 internally displaced persons have arrived to the county headquarters but said the registration is still ongoing as more people are still fleeing their areas.

“The situation is dire as most of the people fleeing their areas are in need of food, shelter and other basic needs, the host communities of Magwi County welcomed the IDPs and are making some efforts of contributing some food items to help the internally displaced persons,” Ocheng said.

He added that the situation in the areas is worsening that needs intervention from both the state and national government.

“If there is no intervention by both the state and the national governments, this conflict will increase the suffering of people in Magwi County,” he added.

Meanwhile Patrick Oting Cyprian who is the state minister of information in Eastern Equatoria State said that the State government is planning to send a committee to investigate and assess the situation of the IDPs in Magwi County and after that definitely, “we shall see into it that humanitarian organizations will now be sent to offer support or intervention”.

“I am calling on the people being displaced to be calm that the state government is looking into their issue as their will be a dialogue that will be mediated by the government. We encourage them to always be positive not until the issue is resolved,” he appealed.

In 2017, President Salva Kiir issued an order demanding cattle keepers to leave farm areas in the Equatoria region and go back to their places of origin.

However, cattle keepers have continued to flood Eastern Equatoria state and parts of Central Equatoria State.

In January, local authorities in Magwi County reported the influx of cattle keepers in the areas and warned of possible conflict between the local farmers and nomadic pastoralist.

In Feb, 2019, local authorities in Magwi County demanded that cattle be evacuated from the area after a local chief was killed and three youth disappeared and called for the government’s intervention to defuse simmering tensions between farmers and pastoralists.

In June 2020, authorities in Pageri area confirmed the withdrawal of cattle as part of the resolution made by both the cattle keepers and the farmers during a dialogue that took place in March 2020, but more cattle influx has been reported in the beginning of this year.

In May 2021, six people were killed after armed men in military uniform stormed a cattle camp in Acwa, Pageri payam of Magwi County of Eastern Equatoria where 3,750 heads of cattle were raided.

Two weeks ago, at least 4 children were abducted in Nyolo Boma of Magwi County after the cattle keepers started entering the area.

Early, this month the Eastern Equatoria State Minister of Information strongly condemned the presence of cattle herders in Magwi County and the parts of Madi corridor.

Earlier last week, the governor of Eastern Equatoria revealed plans to initiate dialogue between pastoralists, commonly believed to have come from Jonglei State and the communities of Magwi County.

This was revealed after the state governor paid a visit to Magwi County to assess the areas occupied by the cattle keepers and pledged that his government will initiate dialogue.

However, the threat of the herders continues in the state as more people have been displaced.

For his part, Edmond Yakani the Executive Director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization condemned the influx of the armed cattle herders to Magwi County who have started violence with hosting communities.

“Community Empowerment for Progress Organization is disturbed by the beginning of the violence between the host communities and the cattle herders from Jonglei state,” Yakani said.

He called upon the leadership of the national government such as ministry of Interior and Council of States to urgently intervene on the situation of violence among the armed cattle keepers with the host communities of Magwi County including other locations such as Aswa, Mugali and Nimule. 

“This is unaccepted,” he said.

“Prevention of deadly violence between the cattle keepers and the host communities of Magwi County should be a priority for the central government. The silence on the growing tension among armed cattle keepers and host communities for possible deadly violence is disturbing and worrying.  Multiple calls were made public but zero response from the central Government was observed.

The Eastern Equatoria State leadership attempted to prevent the violence but the armed cattle herders turn to undermine the strengths of the state government,” Yakani stressed. Yakani is urging the communities of both the cattle keepers and farmers to observe senses of non-violent resolution of disputes, while calling on the leadership of Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria states to take urgent role to prevent the violent situation among their respective communities adding that they are planning to organize dialogues among the communities for peaceful settlement of disputes.

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