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Mobile peace campaign brings hope to cattle camps in the Terekeka area

South Sudan
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For years, the Terekeka area in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria region has been affected by conflicts related to cattle raiding, competition over grazing land and water sources, and cycles of revenge attacks. Despite numerous dialogue and peace conferences, cattle camp leaders have largely been unable to manage and control disputes.

Cattle camp youth often take on entrenched violent behaviour, which leads to cycles of conflict and resulting casualties.

“Conflict in Tijor County has serious impacts for me and my family,” says Monica Dudu James, a resident of Tijor County in Terekeka, located some 70km north-west of the capital, Juba.

Monica was one of 32 women attending a mobile peace campaign on March 30, 2019, organized by the Civil Affairs Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), in partnership with Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO).

“When fighting happens, we do not have the time to cultivate grain. Many of our children have died in these conflicts. I am very happy that this workshop is happening because it has conveyed the message of peace to us. It has given us hope,” declared Monica.

The mobile campaign, which brought together over 85 cattle camp leaders, specifically targets female youth from cattle camps and focuses on how these leaders can diffuse tension. Close to half of the workshop participants in Tijor County were women, demonstrating the role they play in cattle camp management, as well as the impact conflict can have on the families of cattle keepers.

The workshop is part of a larger mobile campaign to promote peaceful coexistence among the cattle camps of Terekeka State in deep rural areas. The goal is to sensitize and educate the youth on non-violent options for managing disputes, with visits to all eight counties of the state.

“We want to encourage you to please manage your disputes in peace,” said Olivia Victoria Davies from the UNMISS Civil Affairs Division. “And we are not stopping here. After Tijor County, we will continue to other counties in Terekeka State. This means we are encouraging you to stop raiding cattle, and we are requesting that other counties stop raiding your cattle, too. We want to stop the conflict cycle,” she noted.

Successful campaigns have already been held in Gwor and Northern Terekeka counties, where cattle camp youth and chiefs received training on conflict management techniques and the use of dialogue to resolve disputes.

So far, participants have identified the root causes of challenges facing cattle camps as lack of water, illiteracy, high bride prices, corruption, proliferation of arms, alcohol and drug dependence, land disputes, impunity, lack of services and marginalization of communities.

When UNMISS and partners conduct activities, ensuring local government support is a vital step. The Terekeka area Minister of Local Government, Samuel Modiyang Lomurie, made the long drive from Terekeka Town to Tijor County twice during the workshop to spread messages of peace to the cattle camp leaders.

“This workshop is important because it is encouraging sustainable peaceful coexistence among the cattle camps,” said Minister Lomurie, noting: “Without peace, there will be no provision of basic services and no development. We really appreciate UNMISS and CEPO, not only for their partnership, but because these organizations take the needs of community members into their hearts.

In Gwor County, cattle camp youth committed to form a network with other cattle camps to promote peaceful coexistence, while local chiefs hosting cattle camps pledged to monitor inter-communal relations. Similarly, in Tijor County, the workshop resulted in 15 resolutions agreed to by all local cattle camps to help mitigate conflict related to pastoral migration in the area.

Over 100 civilians were killed due to intercommunal fighting in Central Equatoria in 2018. Recent UNMISS interventions, including the launch of the mobile cattle camp peace campaign in November 2018, have focused on improving communal relations. In the first three months of 2019, the Civil Affairs Division observed a significant decrease in casualties from intercommunal conflict in Central Equatoria, compared to the same period in 2018.

UNMISS will continue the mobile cattle camp campaign with stops in Tali, Terekeka, Tindoli, Gemaiza and Nyori counties to continue promoting peace.