Dinka Malual, Luo and Misseriya communities participate in a pre-migration conference under the theme “Promoting Sustainable Peace and Cohesion Among Sudan-South Sudan Border Communities” from 1-5 February 2021 in Aweil, Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, South Sudan. Photo: UNDP

Dinka Malual, Luo and Misseriya Cattle Pre-migration Conference

Every year, at the onset of the dry season in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, the Misseriya, the Rezeigat of Eastern Darfur, and other pastoral communities, migrate from their original settlements in Sudan into South Sudan in search of water points and grazing grounds for their livestock, as well as trade opportunities with host communities. 

This seasonal movement has been an integral part of the socio-economic inter-connectedness of both migrant and host societies for generations. The Dinka Malual, a border community in South Sudan, trade animals and purchase goods from the pastoralists at the markets along the border. However, with these opportunities, also come negative touchpoints like raids and other deadly disputes amongst the partisan communities, giving rise to cycles of intercommunal conflicts. 

Led by the communities themselves, progress has been made to support peace coexistence through regular yearly pre- and post-migration peace conferences. The peace conferences serve as a forum to encourage communities to engage in locally led community-based dialogues that have potential to avert conflict and seek peaceful resolutions, instead of resorting to violent ways of resolving disputes. Under the patronage of the South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission, UNDP supports these conferences in close collaboration with UN Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 

The 2020 migration season interrupted a trend of decreased violence and came with its unique set of challenges with the heightened inclusion of South Sudan’s Peoples Defence Force (SSPDF) soldiers as actors. Conflict involving Dinka Malual, Misseriya, Rezeigat, and the SSPDF ranked the season as one of the deadliest migration seasons in the past decade. In comparison, the 2019 migration season had reported no major incidents.

Misseriya representatives participate in the 2021 pre-migration peace conference in Aweil, South Sudan. Photo: UNDP

“Some of our major issues of concern are the disputed grazing lands and water points, and also some criminal elements that are trying to derail the peacebuilding efforts for their selfish interests,” said Deng Deng Akuei, coordinator and member of the Joint Border Peace Committee. The joint border peace committees were previously trained in conflict resolution and leadership, supported by UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion project. 

Yet, the commitment to the peace conferences continues. 

The five-day 2021 Pre-Migration Peace Conference, themed “Promoting Sustainable Peace and Cohesion Among Sudan-South Sudan Border Communities”,  started on 1 Feb 2021 and concluded on 5 Feb 2021 when the community representatives are expected to draft and sign resolutions on key issues and make recommendations that will guide subsequent cattle migration into Aweil East County. 

Attended by 59 community representatives (5 women), the forum enables the three communities and the SSPDF to review the earlier migration season and discuss outstanding issues and compensation. The attendees are also evaluating new pre-migration agreements, identifying gaps, and developing a contingency plan for the coming migration season. Together, this work helps strengthen the relationship and the interdependencies between the nomadic and the host communities. 

Participants in the 2018 pre-migration conference celebrate the signing of agreed resolutions. Photo: UNDP

Previous years’ resolutions specify exact timings and entry/exit points of the migration, and rules governing punishment and compensation for violations. Resolution 12 of the 2020 agreement strictly prohibited possession of firearms for all sides. And in 2018, both the Dinka Malual and Rezeigat committed to strongly encourage the participation of more women in the conferences.

Of notable attendance at the conference is a delegation on a learning mission, comprising of the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya from neighbouring Abyei region who face similar migration challenges. The two communities hope to learn from and replicate the Aweil peace conference in efforts to address their challenges in Abyei. Organizations like Concordis International, International Organization on Migration (IOM) and United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) are also present at the conference as observers.

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