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South Sudan: Communal conflicts endanger ‘peaceful coexistence’

By Manyuon Mayen Manyuon

Juba, (May 18, 2023) – The analysts have revealed that rampant communal conflicts in South Sudan are interfering with the social fabric and relations hence creating peaceful coexistence gaps among the communities.

Over the past 10 years, South Sudan has continued to experience increasing intensity of communal violent among the communities with Lakes, Warrap, Jonglei and Upper Nile states in the central belt of the country being the most affected.

This has created a huge ethnic division along the societal line, prompting unceasing conflicts and hatred within the localities.

According to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), a courtesy of the UN Security Council briefing in 2021 in New York, escalating communal violence in South Sudan continues to obstruct the realization of durable and sustainable peace in the world’s youngest nation.

It also revealed that more than 80 percent of civilian casualties were attributed to the inter-communal violence and community-based militias in the country.

Majak Mabor, a resident of Rumbek in Lakes state confessed that the continuous communal clashes have been setting locals against each other making it difficult for peace to prevail.

“When fighting erupts among the communities, it increases the level of vulnerability. People have continued to lose life in the fights. This has not only triggered loss of lives but havoc and harsh social relations while threatening food security and livelihoods,” he explained in an exclusive interview with Sawa Sawa Network in Juba.

To Mabor, such ferocious happenings have also exacerbated the sexual violence and gender-based violence (GBV) related conflict in the past years. Women and children have continued to suffer as a result of the communal fights.

Earlier this year, over 30 people were reportedly killed in a suspected armed attacks in Duk Payuel, areas of Jonglei state. Women and children topped the deceased statistic.

Much of those unrests have been cast as ‘communal’ and ‘inter-ethnic’ in nature by most of the people, while targeted killings linked to these events continue to be attributed to seemingly ubiquitous ‘suspected armed youth’ from the neighboring areas, according to the local reports.

Although the occurrence is believed to be chaotic or random in nature, the frequency and intensity of these conflicts tend to spike even though the revitalized peace accord was being implemented.

Patrick Godi, a Juba-based policy researcher affirmed that communal conflict, gang attacks and organized crimes along the highways were tearing the communities apart and that it was high time for them to be rescued.

“It is a disgrace that all these fights challenge the peace accord. But it is possible to resolve them. We need to find solutions for the underlying and preexisting social economic and political issues that normally result into communal fights,” he said in an interview.

Most of the conflicts have been attributed to cattle-related raiding, past tribal conflicts and land issues that often involve the use of arms.

Mr. Godi argues that the government has not been doing enough to control the escalation of the practice.

“As a matter of facts, the government has not been doing enough to resolve the violent related conflict across the country. However, this is the high time to engage the national assembly and executive wing of the government to draft policies that prevent locals from inciting local conflicts,”

There was an urgent need for the policy makers to introduce legislations that aim at ending the prevalence among the communities, said the researcher.

Christine Kide, a civil society activist who is a deputy chairperson at South Sudan Youth Organization Coalition, a loose collection of over 30 youth led-organizations blamed the prevalence of such conflicts on improper service delivery, lack of basic necessities as well as poor traditional leadership at the grassroots level.

“You could find different local actors especially local structures playing roles in these conflicts. Some could influence the youth to fight on tribal lines. These young people do not just act by themselves but they are pushed,” she disclosed.

Such incidences have not only involved loss of lives but cattle raiding and child abduction.

According to the Institute of Peace, Development and Security studies of the University of Juba, cattle raiding and child abduction have persisted in the Greater Jonglei state.

Ms. Kide challenged the political and spiritual leaders for act so that peace was cultivated among the communities.

“We need to explore avenues for engaging local structures through dialogues and awareness raising. We should also sensitize them on the laws and give them access to basic services like roads and food,” she said.

“Additionally, the local chiefs and leaders have the role to influence the youth to disconnect themselves from such wrong doings. Above all, the concept of awareness is very key,”

According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) survey in 2021, conflict and insecurity in South Sudan are believed to be at the levels which could incite violence. ACLED is a disaggregated data collection, analysis, and crisis mapping project

Ms. Kide also called for the deployment of the law enforcement forces along the hotspot areas to deter the practice.

Pia Philip Michael, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of peacebuilding said the ministry was working closely with the partners to build peace and harmony among the communities.

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