By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
March 2, 2013 (BENTIU) - Local leaders in Unity state called for a new round of voluntarily civilian disarmament at a two-day conference in Bentiu last week to address the issue of violent crime and cattle raiding.
- Map of South Sudan’s Unity State.
The conference, facilitated by the Conflict Mitigation and Stabilization Initiative (CMSI) brought chiefs, executives directors, civil society groups and police officers from Unity state’s nine counties together to discuss how to persuade civilians to handover illegal arms to the government.
Previous disarmament campaigns have not persuaded many groups, especially young men who are responsible for keeping cattle, to handover their weapons, although on each occasion some weapons were collected.
At the conclusion of the conference on Friday those taking part blamed the government for failing to set up proper mechanisms in the past for handing over illegal arms.
Gabriel Tuak Yarok, a local chief who participated in the conference even accused members of South Sudan’s army (SPLA) of selling arms collected in disarmament campaigns back to civilians.
The chief said that the community, government and security forces "need to work together" to ensure that civilians do not posses illegal firearms.
Yarok urged the government to give the police and local chiefs the primary role in collecting guns from civilians rather than using the army.
Tito Gatchang Keah, a participant from Payinjiar County, said that in order for the disarmament to be peaceful it had to be carried out through influential local chiefs, rather than the forceful tactics used by the military.