By Philip Buda Ladu
Members of Parliament representing Eastern Equatoria State at the Transitional National Legislature have condemned the heinous atrocities committed by cattle herders from Jonglei State against farmers in Torit and Magwi counties calling for their immediate removal from the areas to their places of origin.
In a statement issued to the media on Tuesday, the Eastern Equatoria State Parliamentary Caucus described the presence of the Jonglei State cattle keepers in the State as a forceful invasion particularly of the areas in Torit and Magwi Counties respectively as they said the herders evict the locals from their homes destroying their properties.
The lawmakers said for the last four years, cattle herders and their animals from Jonglei State have been moving in large numbers on trucks, badges and on foot into parts of Eastern Equatoria State namely; Torit and Magwi counties.
There have been continuous appeals to the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit and the Governors of Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei States to resolve the matter of the cattle influx into the State before it could lead to conflicts.
However, those appeals received no positive response to date yet and the situation continuous to deteriorate said the Eastern Equatoria State Parliamentary Caucus arguing that the flooding that the cattle keepers gave as an excuse for their relocation has subsided.
Sadly, consequent to the cattle influx into the State there have been a number of incidences arising from conflict between cattle herders and local communities resulting into destructions, deaths and displacement of the local population.
The parliamentarians highlighted some of the recent heinous incidents committed by the herders in areas of Magwi and Torit counties.
On 10th January 2022, the cattle keepers allegedly attacked and burnt down Dabur village of Lowoi Boma, Kudo Payam of Torit County killing one person and adducting two children. Also on 4th of January 2022 heavily armed herders allegedly attacked Iyata village of Lowoi Boma killing scores and displaced many into the nearby bushes.
Meanwhile, on 25th February 2022, the herders allegedly attacked Agoro Payam of Magwi County resulting into the death of 7 innocent women and children, one man injured and more than 5,000 locals displaced in the area.
The lawmakers also underlined that in a separate incident in Agoro on 28th February 2022 the cattle keepers abducted 3 children and hanged a mother plus her two daughters.
In another similar attack by the herders in late February 2022, in Abara Boma of Magwi County the armed herders allegedly unleashed a widespread destruction, looting of properties and displaced many local populations in the areas of Kerepi, Moli Andu of Pageri Payam.
The lawmakers further alarmed that it should be known that there is a huge influx and settlement of cattle herders and their animals in Pageri, Mogali and Nimule Payams, adding that they have also forcefully occupied these Payams resulting into violent conflicts, displacements and deaths.
The lawmakers’ communiqué further noted that on 2nd March 2022, around 5:00 P.M., heavily armed cattle herders attacked Abara Boma, Iwire Payam of Magwi County. In an unprovoked attack allegedly resulting into a cold blood murder of 9 innocent lives most of whom are women and children, over 300 houses were burnt, innumerable properties looted and over 7,000 civilians displaced.
“We members of the Transitional National Legislature representing the people of Eastern Equatoria State condemn in the strongest terms possible this barbaric and despicable acts of murder, destruction and displacement of innocent and unarmed civilians,” Julius Moilinga Chairperson of the Eastern Equatoria State Parliamentary Caucus read their communiqué.
Moilinga said they don’t condone any act of violence, murder, destruction and displacement currently happening in Eastern Equatoria State as enshrined in the Constitution and in other international protocols.
The Eastern Equatoria MPs raised a number of appeals including but not limited to; call on Governor of Eastern Equatoria State Louis Lobong Lojore to ensure the safety of all citizens of Eastern Equatoria State and others who are residents in the State.
They called on the Government of Eastern Equatoria State to track down the perpetrators of the heinous crimes and bring them to book.
Urged the R-TGoNU to support the government of Eastern Equatoria State in the implementation of the Presidential Orders No.17/2015 dated 8th April 2015 and No.15/2017 dated 28th October 2017, the orders give powers for the immediate removal and relocation of cattle herders and their animals to their places of origin.
The lawmakers also appealed to Humanitarian Agencies including the government to urgently provide humanitarian assistance to the affected people who are now displaced by the herders.
They urged the herders to immediately leave all territories of Eastern Equatoria State and return to their State of Origin.
The Eastern Equatoria State Parliamentary Caucus then urged the Governor of Jonglei State and senior politicians who hail from Jonglei to take responsibility of ensuring that the communities of Jonglei State do not infringe on the rights of the citizens of South Sudan and urge for immediate relocation of the cattle to their State of origin.
Moilinga underlined that they will continue to explore all lawful means to ensure the government response to arrest the situation of the people of Eastern Equatoria State especially Torit and Magwi counties respectively.
He said they have already moved a motion to the August house on the issue of the cattle herders but it has been put on hold due to the budget discussions that have overshadowed any parliamentary business activity.