By Yang Ater Yang
A two-day dialogue on pre-cattle migration and peaceful coexistence began in Rumbek East County, Lakes State yesterday.
The dialogue aims to promote peaceful coexistence and develop a common identity for the sharing and protection of community-beneficial resources such as grazing lands, water points, and migration routes across the ethnic divide without discrimination.
It is also meant to address cattle theft and exchanges at community borders, farmland disputes, bullying and harassment among cattle camp youths.
The composition of conflict-incitement songs and gender-based violence, including sexual violence behavior by some youth towards girls, among others, are some of the issues to be tackled in the five-day event.
Gordon Majuec Ayen, the area coordinator of the Peace Canal Organization, said the dialogue brought in participants such as chiefs, women, youth leaders, and local government authorities.
“We want to let people know that these pre-migration dialogues are so important. They mean a lot to the people of Greater Rumbek, especially the pastoralists who keep animals,” said Ayen.
According to him, participants will sit and discuss, come up with a resolution that they agree to and sign on behalf of the community, and then the local authorities will ensure its implementation to enhance peaceful coexistence.
Zechariah Kuoi Majak, the Director General of the Ministry of Peace Building in Lakes State, said the discussions were more pastoralist and farmer negotiations.
He said due to the floods, cattle herders have migrated from the Toch wetland to lower Toch areas that are the boundaries of farmers.
“We discussed and resolved that they would come, and they (herders) would stay peacefully. We also discussed peaceful coexistence and the importance of peace,” said Majak.
“We have Gelwong youth leaders; we have chiefs who are responsible for monitoring and evaluating peace coexistence”, he said.
He added that on the first day, the community talked about peaceful disarmament, that they had agreed, and that they were ready to hand over their guns.
For his part, Sultan Majak Deng Mabok said, “We have resolved that we will fight against cattle theft, we will protect community crops from cattle by any means, we are going to work on the mapping of cattle migration, and we are also going to have peaceful coexistence and peaceful access to the community’s shared resources.”
The chief also said they are going to work against gender-based violence to eradicate it in their community.
“We have agreed to eradicate the conflict-incitement songs in the community,” he added.
Chief Deng warned that anyone who perpetrates sexual or committed gender-based violence in the community would be sent to prison.
Anna Nyibol Manyang, a women’s representative said the women in the community are happy with the peaceful coexistence being achieved in the state.
“We don’t want another problem or conflict in this community, and guns must be collected to save the lives of the people,” she appealed.
Anna underscored that people were able to cultivate well because of peace, saying they don’t want cattle to graze on farmlands anymore.
Sultan Taban Malual Polic, paramount chief of Mathiangkok payam, Rumbek East County, said the resolutions agreed upon in Wednesday’s discussion are basically on alcohol, peace, cattle, and the farmlands.
“There’s no conflict again, and people have cultivated well this year. If you are one of the women who brew alcohol and take it to cattle camps, it means you are the one who is still causing problems in the community,” the paramount chief echoed.
He warns that any woman who is caught brewing alcohol will serve a 3-month jail sentence without bail and with a fine.
Malual added that cattle keepers who allow their cattle to destroy farm crops will be sentenced to six months in prison without bail and asked to compensate the crops destroyed by the cattle.
The dialogue was organized by the ministries of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agency, and Peace Building, in collaboration with the Peace Canal Organization with funding from the Australian and UK governments.