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:

  1. Because of the war, Sudan government and then rebels SPLM/A armed their supporters and used them as proxies in the war.
  2. There have been no laws to regulate the migrations of the Misseriya nomads into South Sudan especially in Unity State.
  3. Some of the agreements that were organized and negotiated through the SAF were always dishonored by both sides.
  4. There have been no attempts to address the grievances on both sides, trauma have accumulated into behavioral diseases.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.
  7. The relationship between these border communities mostly serves the interest of only one party, the Misseriya.
  8. 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.
  9. 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”

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. The establishment of joint seasonal courts to settle disputes arising during the annual migrations.
  5. Yearly exchange visits to the Misseriya lands and to South Sudan. The communities should not only be confined to cattle camps relationship.
  6. Formation of Northern Unity- Southern Misseriya  Migration Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. The two countries South Sudan and Sudan governments to commit to support peaceful coexistence.
  10.  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. 
  11. 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.
  12. 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


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