New Agreement Reached on Security and Migration Between Cross Border Communities in Northern Bahr el GhazalDec 14, 2017
A new agreement was signed governing pastoral migration issues between the Dinka Malual of Aweil East State and the nomadic Misseriya community of Southern Kordofan (Sudan) during a peace conference held this week in Wanyjok. The conference was co-sponsored by UNDP, UNMISS Civil Affairs Division and Saferworld, and hosted at Action for Children Development Foundation-South Sudan (ACDF).
Support to the conference is part of the peace building and social cohesion pillar of the joint United Nations recovery and stabilization response in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. The joint programme is aligned to the Secretary-General’s ‘New Way of Working’ and designed to complement humanitarian assistance through integrated multi-sectoral support to increase community resilience to shocks in relatively peaceful yet vulnerable areas in the country.
The community-driven peace initiative was the largest meeting of members from the two cross-border groups in over a year, with 127 representatives in attendance. Each community contributed to the meeting: Dinka Malual provided 10 bulls, Misseriya leaders provided sugar, flour, onions and cooking oil, while the regional peace coordinator provided sorghum.
Communities along the political border of Sudan and South Sudan have been linked for generations. Each year, areas of Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Warrap, Upper Nile and Abyei become migration corridors for pastoralists. The movements can create high risk for insecurity, as attacks or disputes occur.
Along the border of Aweil East State, the drying of seasonal rivers instigates a migration season which brings the Misseriya tribes into the area in search of water and pastures for their cattle herds.
“When the Dinka Malual and Misseriya do not have differences, we can remain in peace,” said Angelina, one of the Dinka Malual women members of the joint peace committee from Wanyjok.
“[In the past], when the road was closed due to fighting everyone suffered. Things like sugar, salt, and medicine, all stopped arriving over the border [with Sudan]. It’s important we work for peace, so that their cows may enter, people may move peacefully and there are no killings,” she continued.
The signed agreement between the two communities covers 12 resolutions and numerous recommendations. The resolutions set forth clear guidelines for compensation and fines for acts such as intentional killings, rape, cattle theft and burning of bushes.
Several of the recommendations in this year’s agreement are oriented to future initiatives between the communities. The leaders discussed increasing the engagement of youth and women. In the future, they would like to develop water resources for improving irrigation so that larger-scale cultivation can take place along the border. The group also agreed to form a joint committee for border natural resources management ahead of a planned project supported by FAO.
Peter Makuac Makuac has been involved in the peace discussions between the two communities since he was a young man, and later, as a leader of his community when he inherited the title of Paramount Chief for Aweil East from his father. Peter is one of the main signatories representing the Dinka Malual chiefs in the new agreement.
“I wanted to take good steps to continue the peace between Dinka Malual and Misseriya that my father worked towards. When the Misseriya come looking for water and grass, and later when the rainy season sends them back home, they will sometimes kill or take cows,” said Peter.
“This meeting establishes how the agreement [between us] will work, and relations are always better after signing because there are now instructions for interventions and rules that govern what to pay in compensation [for violations],” he said.
Deng Luol Akuei is the peace committee chairperson for Aweil East. He began attending the peace conferences and meetings between the Dinka Malual and Misseriya in 1991.
“There is no way for our two communities to remain separated, we are connected in many ways and over many, many years. The peace conference this year has gone well and it’s added to what has been discussed in the previous meetings,” said Deng.
Both Deng and Peter insist the peace agreements work. They cited an incident where three men from Dinka Malual were killed by Misseriya while fishing in the Kiir River. At the time, peace committee members were able to intervene and impose the stipulated punishment for intentional killings. The families of the men were compensated and no revenge killings or further escalation occurred.
The peace committee members will continue to be responsible for managing the upcoming migration and monitoring the implementation of the agreement. Prior to the peace conference, several of the attendees participated in a training workshop organized by UNDP and the South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission (SSPRC) designed help peace committee members build awareness on principles of peaceful coexistence and how to prepare for productive discussions.
“My hope is the resolutions will help us build even better relationships with the Dinka Malual, in order for us to live peacefully,” said Mohammed, a rapporteur for the Misseriya who attended both the workshop and the peace conference. In addition to the productive outcomes and peace agreement, Mohammed noted he had also made many friends across the community lines at the conference.
“We will be going back to our Misseriya communities to educate them on the outcomes and how we are going forward with our relationship with the Dinka Malual. A year from now, if the resolutions and recommendations of this conference are applied, we will have improved relations,” he continued.
Planning is now underway for a pre-migration conference in January between the Rizeigat nomads from Darfur and the Dinka Malual in neighboring Western Bahr El Ghazal. Continued support to community-led peace initiatives is part of UNDP’s specific role in the jointed integrated programme as part of targeted activities to strengthen social cohesion in the region as a pathway to restoring livelihoods, and boosting economic development and prosperity.