An agreement implemented between farming and cattle herder communities in three neighboring states in greater Bahr El Ghazal region has brought about progress in addressing conflict arising during cattle migration season.
The rate of criminal incidents related to the movement of cattle has gone down, says William Kamilo, Chief of Rocrocdong County near Wau, but more needs to be done:
“The agreement has not yet been disseminated to communities in Kpaile, Bagari and Bessilia because of insecurity in these areas”.
Every year between January and April, cattle herders in the Tonj and Gogrial region move their animals to greener pastures near Wau. This annual migration of hungry cattle and their often armed owners creates tensions with farmers in the area, as cows tend to be happy to munch away on their crops. They also affect available water sources negatively.
Disagreements caused by such bovine behaviour sometimes escalate into violent clashes and the loss of lives, a phenomenon that in November 2016 made pastoralists and farmers sign the so called Marial Bai agreement, later revised in October last year.
The Marial Bai agreement, so baptized after a county with the same name, stipulates rules on how to resolve migration related conflicts, procedures for seeking permission to move cattle and what compensation should be paid for crops eaten and cows killed.
The code of conduct, as demonstrated at a recent evaluation meeting in Wau between county commissioners, chiefs and partners working with communities in the conflict-affected areas of the Bahr El Ghazal region, has had a positive impact.
“It [the interstate agreement] made it possible to control cattle keepers who try to move with guns,” says Akot Grang, Commissioner in Gogrial.
Arkangelo Anyar, Minister of Local Government in Wau emphasized that identifying challenges encountered during the implementation of the agreement will serve as lessons learnt and to improve the enforcement of the rules during the next cattle migration season.
The Civil Affairs Division of the United Nations Missions in South Sudan is supporting the work of the interstate coordination committee in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Marial Bai agreement.
An overall regional review of the 2018 cattle migration season is expected to be made once the ongoing assessments in different states have been finalized.