Recommendations from a Jonglei Peace Panel

Sudan 0701
(Calgary, Alberta, Canada) - Introduction -
The Jonglei Peace Initiative (JPI) and NewSudanVision.com organized a panel discussion on disarmament and peaceful resolution of interethnic conflict in Jonglei State on March 18th 2012 at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The JPI was formed in 2008 by the concerned citizens of Jonglei in the diaspora –with the goals to work on comprehensive peace and settlement of all premeditated intertribal violence in Jonglei State. The NewSudanVision.com is an independent website based in North America working to leverage the role of media in promoting the fundamental tenets of democracy, freedom, justice, peace, prosperity, and good governance in the new Republic of South Sudan.  

Members of the panel, who brought incredible passion and tremendous knowledge to the discussion, included Kuir Garang, John Jok, Athieng Riakbai, Natilana Yoll, Nhial Korow, Dhieu Dok and Manyang Deng. The panel discussion, which was moderated by the two of us, was mainly aimed at shedding light on the effectiveness of the South Sudan government-led disarmament and to generate seminal ideas on peace initiatives, and suggest recommendations which can contribute to a comprehensive strategy for a long-lasting peace among the communities in Jonglei State. The disarmament was launched on Monday March 12, 2012 in Jonglei’s Capital Bor by the President of South Sudan 1st LT. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit as a form of establishing stability and peace in the state. The government has deployed about 15, 000 troops to disarm the civilian population.

The communities in Jonglei State have not been good neighbors both during the war time and after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 between North Sudan and South Sudan. Cattle –rustling, civilian massacres and child-abductions have been the most dominant features of the conflict. The clashes mainly involve three ethnic communities of Dinka, Nuer and Murle in the State.

The discussion and recommendations

The panelists discussed and analyzed the root causes of the conflict in Jonglei State and examined whether the recently launched disarmament in the state is the best approach in bringing peace to the state.

Although disarmament is an important part of a comprehensive approach in bringing peace to the state, the panelists unanimously argued that the disarmament campaign may not resolve the current conflict in the state. There are number factors which the panelists considers to be important in whether the disarmament will be successful.

First, the government does not know how many guns are in the hands of civilians. Some civilians own several guns and therefore may only give one gun and remain with the rest.

Second, there is no effective mechanism in place to seal off the sources of guns from getting back into the hands of the civilians. The panelists identified sources of guns as neighboring countries, including the Republic of Sudan, and black market in South Sudan, which may sometimes get its supply through some corrupt military logistics personnel.

Third, civilians may feel insecure to hand in their guns because there is no guarantee of protection against armed militias from other communities as the government has failed on numerous occasions to protect the civilians.

Fourth, there are no incentives to attract the civilians to voluntarily surrennder their guns. They can decide to hide their guns and there is no way the disarmament forces can know.

Fifth, the panelists argue that guns are not the problems and that taking them away without identifying and addressing the root causes of the conflict is a bandage.

The panelists identified root causes of the conflict as poverty, traditional lifestyle that views raiding other communities as source of wealth and tribal pride, lack of strong law and order which leaves individuals to take law into their own hands, illegal access to modern weapons which make it hard for the government to stamp authority over the warring communities, war impacts and deep rooted ethnic hatred. The panelists believed that a piecemeal approach like focusing on one without addressing all of the mentioned root causes may not lead to a sustainable peace in the state.

The panelists came up with the following recommendations to be considered by the government of South Sudan as part of a comprehensive strategy in bringing a comprehensive peace to the state:

  1. Carrying out disarmament simultaneously in Jonglei and in all the States using incentive method. E.g. guns exchange with money or cows. Incentives can allow civilians to voluntarily surrender their guns to the government forces.
  2. Comprehensive legal frameworks addressing guns ownership, gun sales, cattle rustling/raiding, interethnic/communal attack, child abduction and identification of perpetrators using local community leaders like chiefs. Such a law will restrict gun ownership, register guns owners and license gun sale and prohibit and punish any illegal sale and ownership. The law will give maximum punishment for child abduction, civilian massacres and cattle rustling, allowing the national armed forces to forcefully apprehend any armed groups which may be engaging in such activities.
  3. Building of trust between communities through peace and reconciliation and intercommunity trade and sporting activities;
  4. Changing the people mindset by sensitizing communities about the importance of peaceful co-existence including peace education workshops focused on youth and communities leaders;
  5. Comprehensive community economic development programs which include creating jobs for the youth, education and vocational skills centers and modernization of cattle economy;
  6. Deployment of armed forces to protect the communities, strong police forces in strategic areas prone to violence to enforce law and order and establishment of monitoring and communication networks to alert authorities of imminent attacks;
  7. Establishment of buffer zone between the warring communities;
  8. Decentralizing of administrations so that the government is much closer to the people
  9. Local leadership accountability by the government. This means local MPs, chiefs and youth leaders should be held accountable because they are sometimes complicit in some inter – communal attacks by keeping silent or through direct involvement.
  10. Sensitization of leaders so that they think above the limits of their community boundaries and act like leaders for all the communities;
  11. More interaction between leaders and grassroot communities to establish a trust between the governments and the communities, especially the marginalized and remote ones.

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