February 26, 2012 (BOR) - South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, told a rally in Jonglei state - the scene of large scale ethnic violence over the last two months - that the military and police would fight cattle raiders if they refused to hand over their weapons in an imminent disarmament campaign.
- Lou Nuer youth leader speaking in Linkuangole, Jonglei state. 28 Dec. 2011 (ST)
The latest attempt to disarm Jonglei’s cattle herding communities is scheduled to begin on 1 March. Initially the emphasis will be on voluntary hand overs but the new country’s president made it clear that force would be used if groups refused to disarm.
In late December over 6,000 armed Luo Nuer men entered Pibor county to attack the Murle tribe, steal, cattle and abduct women and children in revenge for an attack by the Murle on Uror County in August, which in turn was in response to a June attack by the Luo Nuer.
Last year over 1,000 died in clashes in Jonglei, but it is unclear how many died in the latest raids and counter raids. Humanitarian organisations are responding to the emergency attempting to provide food, shelter and other assistance to the over 120,000 people affected.
The scale of recent fighting, has led to questions over whether South Sudan, after only seven months of independence, is already a failed state. However, this assessment has been strongly refuted by the head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Hilde Johnson, in a recent interview with the BBC.
South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, also denied South Sudan could be labelled a failed state in his speech in Bor but accused north Sudan of attempting to make this happen by arming rebel groups in the region.
President Kiir asked Jonglei’s youth to stop killing each other, urging them to join the national army to defend the nation from external enemies. He threatened them with the full weight of South Sudan’s military (SPLA) should they fail to disarm or join the official armed forces.
“We have organised a huge army forces and police with military hardware, in Juba to disarm guns from all the people. Even if you are the son of God, we shall fight you. If you don’t listen, you will see with your eyes, but it will be too late to escape it again,” President Salva kiir told the rally in Bor on Saturday.
“You jobless youth, I will give you a job and your job is to join the army where you will get guns to defend our nation,” said Kiir.
After decades of civil war, which ended in 2005 when a peace deal gave South Sudan the right to self determination, Jonglei and other states in South Sudan are still awash with small arms.
The lack of alternative livelihoods and a struggling economic recovery mean that cattle still play a huge role in South Sudan’s economy and culture. Not only do they signify wealth and status but often a man cannot marry without cattle to pay the family of the bride.