UPPER NILE: When large herds of cattle, and their semi-nomadic owners, move in search of pastures new, there are sometimes tensions with land-owning farmers. To maintain friendly relations during the migration season, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan recently co-organized a two-day conference in Maban County, bordering Sudan.
“We all, herders and farmers alike, need our respective resources to sustain our families. If you don’t destroy our crops, we won’t harm your cattle and we will all be better off,” said Mansour Mustafa, a Paramount Chief in the county, stressing that everyone stands to gain from peace and social cohesion.
Pastoralists from Sudan, mainly the Fallatas from that country’s Blue Nile State, have a long history of seasonal migration to South Sudan. It typically takes place between October and June, when the cattle keepers return north of the border to escape heavy rains in Upper Nile State.
“During these two days we have discussed the situation and agreed on solutions to the obstacles we sometimes encounter when our animals come her for grazing. Together, we have managed to form a cross-border peace committee tasked with addressing any tensions that may still arise,” said Issa Ali Barakah, chief of the Sudanese cattle herders.
The conference, organized in collaboration with Maban County authorities and the state Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries, brought together 50 participants. For the first time, the Sudanese delegation included a women’s leader, an initiative that was praised by Charles Boum, a Civil Affairs Officer serving with the UN peacekeeping mission.
“This is a very good gesture. Women’s participation when peace and security matters are discussed is critical,” he said, strongly encouraging both parties to further increase their female representation and urging participants to circulate the outcome of the forum as widely as possible.
“Let this accord serve as a norm that will guide every step you take,” Mr. Boum added.
Apart from migration routes to be clearly marked and respected, those in attendance also committed to establish a trade-boosting common market and a joint court with the mandate of resolving disputes related to the cattle movements in the area.