November 15, 2012 (BOR) - Lawmakers in South Sudan’s eastern state of Jonglei, the scene of a localised rebellion and controversial disarmament campaign, have passed a bill making it illegal for civilians to carry guns or ammunition without a licence.
The Social Firearms and Ammunitions Control Bill, passed in the state parliament’s last session before the long Christmas recess, is in response to ongoing insecurity in the state.
It is almost a year since cattle raiding and reprisal attacks escalated dramatically in Jonglei over Christmas and New Year triggering a state-wide disarmament campaign, which involved the deployment of around 15,000 soldiers and police to the area. The United Nations and human rights groups have accused the South Sudanese army of abuses while conducting the exercise.
The speaker of the state assembly, Peter Chol Wall MP, while addressing the media in his office on Wednesday in Bor, said the law was important as it will regulate rampant possession of guns in the hands of civilians in Jonglei.
Reading the content of the bill to the press in his office, Wall said:.
“No civilian shall possess firearm of ammunition unless he or she has a valid license, issued by the competent authority”.
Before this law, it was still legal for civilians to possess guns without a licence - a legacy of the Sudanese civil war (1983-2005) that led to South Sudan’s independence last year and saw a flood of small arms into Jonglei State for over two decades.
The proliferation of weapons has meant that the practice of cattle raiding, which has long been common among the pastoralist communities of South Sudan, has become a far more fatal and divisive exercise.
The law has spelled out the categories of penalties for those who will be caught with guns according to the speaker. The new law will be presented to Governor Manyang Juuk for his assent before the end of November.
This new bill comes as the disarmament campaign in Jonglei continues.
In December 2011 around 6,000-8,000 armed youth primarily from the Luo Nuer ethnic group were mobilized militarily to launched a series of systematic attacks on the Murle tribe of Pibor County over a 12 day period crossing into January 2012.
Over 1,000 people were killed in violence between Jonglei’s cattle herding groups in 2011 and nearly 900 more in the New Year attacks, which began on 27 December and ended - after a series of reprisal attacks from Murle armed groups - around 4 February.
Abductions of women and children, the destruction of homes and the displacement of thousands of civilians are common dynamics of the conflict a report, compiled by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) with support from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) found in June 2012.
Over 140,000 people as they were forced to flee their homes and/or need humanitarian assistance. The unrest led to South Sudan President Salva Kiir ordering a state-wide disarmament process
Later in 2012 the six tribes of the state signed an agreement in the Jonglei capital Bor in an attempt to end the cycle of ethnic violence in the area. However, some groups have avoided the process and a rebellion headed by David Yauyau continues in Pibor County.