Should civilians be disarmed in South Sudan?

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Thursday, 07 May 2009 22:52
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Manyok Biar is a regular contributor for NSV

(Texas USA) - The government of South Sudan (GOSS) is in dilemma on whether to use force to disarm armed civilians in South Sudan or not. This is a very complicated issue. It is dangerous in both ways. If force is used to disarm the armed civilians, then they are going to be angry with the government for the lives lost during the disarmament. If disarmament is not done, then Khartoum and other elements within South Sudan would continue with their policies of divide and rule by supporting one tribe against another. This article will introduce a debate that intellectuals from South Sudan will engage in to find the solution to this dilemma.


The governor of Central Equatoria state, according to New Sudan Vision report, said today on May 7, 2009 that Central Equatoria citizens will not be disarmed until the Lord’s Resistance Army ceases and Jonglei’s people get their weapons removed first.


I agree with the Governor. Disarmament at this time is not the solution to tribal conflicts in South Sudan. People are still insecure even within their tribes. There are rumors that those who disarmed handed in to the government one of their many rifles that they filed up during the war and they remained with many other rifles. Disarmament will be a cycle with no end and will be very expensive for the government. GOSS cannot kill its own civilians and remain popular. This is the strategy of the enemy, as we have clearly seen.


This is my solution. GOSS needs to tell its citizens that they will be free to keep their guns, but under one condition: all the guns that one has must be registered. The government must invest in this short term expensive exercise to stop long term problem.


Here in the United States, almost every house has more than two rifles. Some of these rifles are used for self-protection against criminals or wild animals and others are used for lawful hunting. But there is still order because every gun is registered. If one misuses his or her gun, then it will be identified in the system and taken away with heavy fine.


Tribal conflict in South Sudan is practiced because of the benefits that it gives to the perpetrators. Cattle rustling is one way of getting rich quicker in South Sudan, making those who do it heroes in their communities. If the same cattle rustled becomes costly to the perpetrators, the perpetrators will abandon the practice immediately.


The only way that GOSS will make criminals pay for their crimes is to know ways of putting the hands of law on the criminals. In addition to registration of all rifles with their numbers, all chiefs down to the level of clans must be registered. These chiefs must be accountable for anything that happens in their communities. The government should provide chiefs with phones or radios so that they report to police in their areas any criminal activities.


In communities that keep cattle, every cow or goat must be branded. The government should come up with the brand or number unique to each tribe or the existing brands like cow earmarks must be registered and entered into police electronic system. But I recommend government-created numbers for each community that keeps cattle so that stealing would be thing of the past. The branding can easily be done with electronic hot objects.

If all the cows are branded and guns are branded, then paying of dowry from one community to another or selling of each cow must be registered. This is another way of collecting taxes. Whenever, cattle raiding are reported, the government must send the army and the police to suspected areas and identified all cattle with brand of the tribe that reported raiding of their cattle. The government will arrest chiefs in the area where people are in possession of cattle with marks of other tribes. Screening would be done to find cows that were registered as dowry or sold.


Those who stole other people’s cows would not only lose the cows they had stolen, they would also lose their own cows to the government as fine for their crimes. They would also pay compensations for people they killed in the tribe that they attacked, but nobody would pay for people lost on the attackers’ side.

If people start losing their cows as a result of raiding other people’s cows, then cattle rustling would become very expensive and those who practice it would abandon it for something beneficial. This is the only way our government would keep order in South Sudan.


This strategy works here in the West in different ways. Police have ways of identifying drivers who exceed speed limit, and you know cars are more than cows. These drivers are not imprisoned; they get ticket with good sum of money to be paid to the government as fine. This is the reason why car accident is limited here in the West. People who do not fear death fear the lost of money. In the same way, people who do not fear death in South Sudan because they want to get rich without sweating for it will probably fear losing their own cows to the government. Those who retaliate against other tribes, using their registered guns must also lose their properties.


*Zechariah Manyok Biar is a graduate student at Abilene Christian University, Texas, USA and a regular contributor to NSV. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.