Unceasing Delicate Border Relations between the states of Western & Southern Kordofan in Sudan and Unity State in South Sudan
Note: I presented this paper in a migration conference in May this year in Bentiu as a civil society position.
Background to Misseriyia Migration to South Sudan:
Unity State in South Sudan receives Misseriya nomads for hundreds of years back in history and still received them today. Sometimes the migrations of the Misseriya to South Sudan Unity state were peaceful and sometimes it was bloody migrations. The history tells of how good and bad the relations were between these border communities of Misseriya, Nuer and Dinka. The Ngol (Ragaba Elzeraga) conflicts of 1960s-1974 are still fresh in the memories of the generation of Paramount Chief Tunguar of Leek and Paramount Chief Jau Jiel of Panaruu. After the conflicts, Ngol rivers were left for Misseriya, still Misseriya begin to migrate deeper south of Ngol around Abiemnhom, Mayom, Rubkona and Panrieng counties of Unity state.
Despite the conflicts between the host communities and the Misseriya, this Sudanese tribe was always welcome to Unity state. The end of 1970s was peaceful until abruptly the Misseriya were engaged again in trying to explore new lands deeper south and this time it coincided with the rebellion that was stating in South Sudan the SPLA/M, taking that opportunity, Sudan government of Nimeri and Al Mahdi used the Misseriya tribes very well to raid and displace first Abiemnhom, Mayom Panrieng and Rubkona. Those of Khery Fahim, Isa Bashry, Faki Nawai were all engaged in arming and organizing the Misseriya militants to raid cattle in all the cattle camps in the northern parts of Unity state.
When the National Salvation Revolution led by President Al Bashir took power in Sudan in 1989, the new regime organized the Misseriya into popular defend forces. Their armed men with new statehood legal status rampantly raid almost the northern line of South Sudan from Aweil to Panrieng as far as Mapel in Western Bahr Elgazal[i].
During the 22 years of war, the successive governments in Sudan alliance with Misseriya thus, they got all the rights and privileges over their neighbors from the Dinka or the Nuer. They could displace a village, they could raid cattle, raped women, and their actions were not questioned by the authorities.
In this juncture, South Sudanese youth in big numbers were forced to seek and obtained arms from the SPLA and other armed groups mainly to repulse the Misseriya incursions resulting in many raids conducted against the Misseriya. Exception of Abiemnhom County, the other three counties of Mayom, Rubkona and Panrieng has been engaged in raiding Misseriya in possible ways every year since 1986 to the present day. The South Sudanese tribes in Unity state has never attempted to engage in land incursions to the northern borders, instead; they simply wait and raid in the South Sudan territories. The raids have bereaved the Misseriya, Dinka and Nuer from wealth and human for many years and have contributed to poverty. The Falata Ambororo was victimized in the course of the Nuer, Dinka and Misseriya conflicts. Many people believe that the Fallata Ambororo are peaceful people but because of the destination where they hail in Sudan, the Falata tribes have become victims of traumatized and hunger for revenge South Sudanese tribes.
Past grievances and future challenges to Sudanese nomads’ migrations:
- Because of the war, Sudan government and then rebels SPLM/A armed their supporters and used them as proxies in the war.
- There have been no laws to regulate the migrations of the Misseriya nomads into South Sudan especially in Unity State.
- Some of the agreements that were organized and negotiated through the SAF were always dishonored by both sides.
- There have been no attempts to address the grievances on both sides, trauma have accumulated into behavioral diseases.
- South Sudanese communities believed they do not benefit from the Misseriya migrations into their lands. Instead they are occupied with worries of what will be the end of things when Misseriya leaves the lands.
- In many cases, those Misseriya chiefs who negotiate terms of grazing inside South Sudan are believed not to be the real chiefs and therefore, their commitments are not binding.
- The relationship between these border communities mostly serves the interest of only one party, the Misseriya.
- In recent years, the state government of Unity state used to negotiate the terms of grazing with the Misseriya. This is not enough as long as there are no community engagements at the grassroots.
- There are no assigned police forces to protect the Misseriya nomads as well as the host communities. Governments does not commit to fulfills it is obligations.
Firstly, let revisit three recommendations put forth by Dr. Douglas Johnson in his January 2011 recommendations [ii]:”road back from Abyei”
- The Government of South Sudan needs to give a practical demonstration of its repeated statements that the Misseriya will not be hindered in their seasonal migration into Abyei and neighboring Unity, Warrap and Northern Bahr al-Ghazal states by outlining the security measures it will undertake to help the Misseriya protect their herds without resorting to carrying arms;
- Annual meetings, based on the model of those already concluded in Aweil in 2008 should be held to enable Misseriya and Unity state community leaders to agree on the details of annual migrations. These can be facilitated by SPLM leaders in whom the Misseriya already have trust, example of Paul Malong, governor of Northern Bahr al-Ghazal state;
- Both tribes should be involved in their own security by the creation of joint seasonal cattle guard forces to monitor grazing routes and pasture areas without having to depend exclusively on the national police and armed forces of either Sudan or South Sudan;
- The establishment of joint seasonal courts to settle disputes arising during the annual migrations.
- Yearly exchange visits to the Misseriya lands and to South Sudan. The communities should not only be confined to cattle camps relationship.
- Formation of Northern Unity- Southern Misseriya Migration Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism
- Collection and Dissemination of previous agreements between the Misseriya and the four counties of Unity state. This includes various reports of peace building like the ones of Concordis, AECOM and others.
- The Misseriya are families (Awalad Omran, Mazagna, Awalad Kamil, Fayareen and Ajayra) like the Nuer and the Dinka (Aloor, Bul, Leek and Panaruu), these families with the support of their government local governments must formulate and regulate policies of migrations.
- The two countries South Sudan and Sudan governments to commit to support peaceful coexistence.
- There is need to separate interests/reasons of engagement, the cattle migration should be treated differently from that of trade and commercial purposes. The Misseriya should not blindfold people of Unity state through trade as away to allured and neutralize local demands for dignified negotiated settlement of past grievances and present interests.
- Misseriya tribes must acknowledge and regret their past involvement in the war and atrocities inflicted on the local people in Unity state as a way for seeking forgiveness and reconciliation.
- The tribes from Unity state should acknowledge that the war grievance is holding them hostages and preventing them from exploring the rewards they could gain from worthy engagement with the Misseriya as neighbors.
[i] Unity State Migration Conference held at Census Hall, Bentiu, South Sudan from 29 February to 2 March 2012
[ii] Douglas H. Johnson, the road back from Abyei
It is very noticeable in Unity state that government officials are heavily guarded by heavily armed soldiers or police forces. Governor is more guarded than the minister, this include SPLA trucks full with red-head military police caps, secret agents and some police for decoration. All the law enforcement agents must get involve in guarding the big man. His residential house is surrounded by men in uniform 24/7/30/12. Whenever the big man goes to secretariat general “SG” offices, the narrow and dirty roads are left for his well armed convoy by both footing-humans and the lucky ones in the other few cars in the capital city. Life within the SG building is not less terrifying than his residential house, here, in every corner and under every tree there is either a police or soldier with AK47 and a bunch of extra ammunition-bags. Standby, are the military trucks with machine guns mounted on the top. The place must look neat-tight with security agents.
The honorable minister, the honorable advisor, the honorable Member of Parliament, all must be heavily guarded on the roads, in the offices and at home. One police in front seat, two in the back seats, one or two in the middle seats making body shelter for the honorable from any unknown attacks specially coming from the eyes of passing-by citizens. He must be heavily guarded because guarding is a privilege for honorable, if not guarded well, s/he is not respected and a fool. It is like he is not dress up well for his official duty, guarding is part of official dress.
Origins of being surrounded with armed men: it is the culture of war, all over the South Sudan during the war, culture of carrying a gun for getting food or killing an enemy was the show of the day and night. It was worse in Unity state where there were the mighty RMGs, the SAF soldiers whom were instructed to clear the lands from any livings to pave way for smooth and safe oil explorations and the SPLA fighters in all corners. In this situation, many awful stories were narrated on how one star officer used to be guarded by “circling” himself with armed soldiers and walk in the middle. After the peace agreement and the integration processes and so, so, number of guards reduced a bit but it is still the same mindset, but why? Just fears, “there are unknown enemies whom may target me because of my position in the government”,” government officials can take decisions which may not be well taken by some people and can give them reasons to attack me”. The naked truth is that, there have never been any assassination attempts on the lives of government officials since the signing of the CPA till today in Unity state. It is just kudos like having many cows or marrying many wives here in the land. Soldiers are enslaved by the officials to guard them to scary away civilians who entrusted them to lead and manage their daily affairs. Recently I met the former security advisor on the worn-out road in Kalibalek market footing and with no guards, before his removal from the office, used to have guards in his cars, in his house every moment. This time the man was a very happy citizen with no rude face he was used to. With guards around, no peace with others, with no guards, there is peace with others.
If the government officials carry all these guns in their cars, restaurants, events, bars, offices and they are government officials, what about ordinary people in the villages where there are raiders, hyenas, lions?
Sire, why should you surround yourself with all this guns?
There is need to disarmament the state government officials in the next disarmament campaign.
yesterday agreed to meet at five, today for the whole day no phone going through, at 6 pm went through, phone not picked, few minutes later a man rang and said i have received a call from you who are you? I did not called you was the answer, if I have called her, malish! Bye, again the man called, why did you called my wife, who are you? I did not call your wife, if so, sorry, bang! Tritritri tritriri! Hi Al! Al: why did you called, I told you yesterday not to call today and that I will call you from another phone, now my sister is in trouble! He is about to kill her now, he is a SPLA soldier and can shoot my sister I do not know what to do now. If he calls you again do not answer the phone but if you answer the phone tell him that you are…and from B.. and you are a relative, what is your name again? She asked, I am…. ten more calls no answer, last was on 20:42 minutes when the phone was off for me to change the gear. Anychi! Heineken please! It is now 10:18, if he calls, I will bring out my AK47, or call my starred brothers.
Be careful with wrong numbers!
Our traditional system: vulnerable but effective
Chief Juoy Machar, chair of the town court
Question: why the chiefs are not using the COTAL building in Bentiu town?
Chief: in the first place, the minister for physical infrastructure in the previous government was reluctant and unwilling to allocate a piece of land to use to build the COTAL but the intervention of the former governor Taban Deng has facilitate land allocation for the COTAL. After completed construction of COTAL building, the ministry of local government turns it into a directorate for traditional authority.
Question: what will happen if a new building is constructed for the chiefs like town court?
Chief: if a new building is constructed for us, it will not be taken over again by the ministry of local government. We will seek written commitment from the state governor or his deputy to protect our properties.
Question: how many cases your court can settle every day?
Chief: we settle every day 13-14 different cases and around 200-300 people attending the courts.
Question: how many members are there in your court?
Chief: There are 18 chiefs who are members of the court. 2 out of the 18 are women. The composition of the court is like this Rubkona: 4 members, Guit: 4 members, Pariang: 2 members, Mayom: 2 members, Abiemnom: two members, Koch: 1 member, Mayendit: 1 member, Leer: 1 member, Panyijiar: 1 member
Question: What are the most cases brought to your court?
Chief: most of the cases brought to us for settlement are mostly cases related to women involvement like elopement, illegal pregnancies, adultery with some body’s wife, dowries payment and cow theft.
Question: who else help the chiefs do their job?
Chief: there are police guards who help keeps the order in the court and we have secretary who keeps records of the court
Question: do you have records of your cases and where do you keep them?
Chief: we do have some records but not all the cases are documented because we do not have an office and board to keep our files.
Question: how do you value your work?
Chief: we are the most important institution in the state in term of intensive work pressure, providing solutions social problems, keeping peace among the community members. We are working more than the government who have lot of money but do very little to people.
Accordingly, the county priorities were:
Health infrastructures: on this plan, 100% was achieved. In all nine payams of Pariang there are health centers constructed in my cases it is one roomed. However, health facilities are not that well functioning due to lack of health cadres locally and statewide. The commissioner and his administration have lobbied for funds to training locally hired health cadres in Yei medical school. There are number of youth who have attended secondary schools who can be train to be medical assistants. Another challenge to health is lack of midwives.
In education, in education little has been achieved. Very few schools were constructed in some of the payams because schools construction require huge budget. There were plans to send 13 teachers for training in Yei teachers training center for 4 years course in education but the plan has been hailed by lack of funds.
The third priority was to provide clean water for human consumption. Pariang County used to be home for Guinea worm. When Miabek resumed office as county commissioner in 2005, there were 13 hand pumps in all of 62 bomas. During Miabek tenure in office a total of 49 new boreholes were installed. Now the numbers of boreholes in Pariang stand at 71 boreholes installed by different development partners including Samaritan Purse which operate from Yida refugees’ camp.
To be continued…