Monthly Archives: December, 2012

Cattle raiding: is it a cultural practices or a challenge to government?

Signing of the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) in 2005 Africa longest civil war which was raged between the North and Southern Sudan was brought to an end leading to the birth of South Sudan nation in July 2011. According to different reports including UN, hundreds of lives are lost in a month on different tribal fighting over different matters mostly cattle raiding in different states of South Sudan. Eminent facts are that; before the war in 1983, tribal conflicts were not in frequent occurrence in South Sudan due to lack of arms, minimizing the possibility of youth and community members involving in cattle raiding and in addition to presence of strong and trusted community leaders led by paramount chiefs with credible powers to execute justice among the people. With massive armament of the tribes either by Sudan Army forces (SAF) or by Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) cattle raiding became a business of these war fragile communities.  Over the years of struggle wars, communities of Lakes, Warrap and Unity states have never experienced peace because of hostilities; continuing-organized cattle raiding which has claimed the lives of old and young, women and men as well as clear lack of rule of law, no perpetrators are brought to book as well as blood compensations which is a practice in South Sudan.

It is important to revisit the cultures of the Nuer and Dinka tribes in relation to cattle raiding: It is because culture defined the system for making meanings that shapes human behavior both consciously and unconsciously while people are not always aware of its impact.   Cattle in Nuer and Dinka culture are viewed as an exemplary sources and symbols of life, health, fertility, status, and prosperity. Cattle, however, are valued above and beyond their material contribution to human survival, cattle are the principal medium through which Nuer and Dinka create enduring social bonds among themselves and forge new alliances with outsiders. The important of cattle highlighted above, make it a deprivation of wealth as well as lives by the raiders. In the case of South Sudan, cattle’s raiding is an organized crime and not theft because in the culture of Dinka and Nuer tribes, theft is not tolerated in the communities instead; thieves are cursed or excommunicated from engaging socially with others.

The wars of cattle raiders “deserve serious national attention. This situation, is posing a critical challenge to state authority and credibility. This is because the provision of security is a domain that primarily belongs to the government. Failure to ensure security to all its citizens in order to promote harmony, peace and stability poorly reflects on the government, and severely undermines its authority, and even legitimacy, in the eyes of the public”. Zachariah Diing Akol, Sudd Institute. The current phenomena of cattle theft is attributed to some factors like economic crisis and weak rule of law in the country which has contributed to loose in social structures.  To halt these cattle raiding tragedies, government and the humanitarian actors has to embark on improved economical activities.

There is no way that cattle raiding be stop unless the raiders find other means of livelihoods! Among the livelihoods activities should the government and humanitarian actors be serious and willing, is the encouragement of agricultural projects to provide alternative means of livelihoods. Since agriculture is the predominant income generation activity in rural areas, providing inputs and agronomic training to farmers can address both food security and livelihoods issues. UN agency like FAO should encourage and support cattle herders to transformation livestock herding for economical purposes and not prestige. This can be done through crossbreeding or hybridization to generate new breed of cattle for milk products and meat for market purposes.

One of the ways out of this nightmare and day tragedy is to empower the local authorities, the chiefs and community leaders because the problem is local which affect the nation at large. In the past, it used to be annual meetings for difference bordering communities to plan for dry season, settle disputes and compensation payment. These meetings are not there right now. Despite the fact that there are some conferences, workshops and meetings to solve cattle raiding conflicts, however, the disputes between the judiciary system and the traditional authority hamper the follow up of cattle raiding cases.

The security organs at the grassroots level should be neutral and not locally captivated. It is observed that local government is too local to consider national issues! Local Commissioner, local executive Director who act as the deputy commissioner, local administrative officers, local police officers and local CID. “It is my cousin who was involved in raiding the Nuer or Dinka why should I investigate seriously this case? I will have a share of his spoils if he return alive”. This localness employment was raised in one of the workshops to discuss the issue of cattle raiding between Warrap and Unity state; in fact it was raised by an Executive Director of one of the counties participating. As mentioned earlier, stealing others properties is a crime which requires criminal investigation, but behavior changing tactics can be tried to address this problem. These are some of the forums that can be use to change the behavior of the youth and other age groups that are involved in this conflict state owned FM radio stations, the churches and other faith groups.  Restoring manhood attitudes which emphasize and encourage hard-earned living instead of stealing others properties should be encourage through social mechanism within these communities by all actors being government or community based organizations.

Applauds is due to different levels of government and international community as well as civil society in South Sudan for tireless efforts to apprehend the cattle rustling in the country. Even so, a progressive reconciliation and trauma healing efforts should continue using different tools like social carnivals for cultural exposure involving women, youth, and community leaders of the raids affected communities and tribes. Dissemination of previous and current peace agreements, challenges and reporting of new incidents is very important in the fight against cattle raiding in the country.

God Bless South Sudan


21 December, 2012 11:05