When members of the Murle, Jie and Kachipo communities first met at a peace dialogue they sat separately, reflecting the tense and complex relationship that has developed as the result of persistent violent clashes between the groups.
Two days later, they were happily mingling, sitting next to each other and chatting.
More than 100 members of different tribes in the Jonglei region came together at a peace dialogue organized by government officials and supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
The largely farming community has recently suffered increasing incidents of cattle raiding, child abduction and revenge attacks, resulting in the killing and injuring of many civilians and the retardation of peace and development in the area which has no functioning school and limited medical facilities.
“But all this is expected to stop especially since UNMISS is involved in all of this. We trust that peace among our Jie and Murle neighbours will stand,” said James Kwachi, from the Kachipo community, who hopes he can go back to his farm and cultivate enough food to support his family if the violence stops.
The participants in the forum discussed ways to prevent fighting and to live together in harmony.
“We have agreed to discuss our problems and hand over people in our communities who engage in cattle raids, for instance, to the government. They will be prosecuted and punished,” said Jebel Boma Paramount Chief, Logidun Lotiboi. “We, the chiefs, have also decided with our people that any youth or chief encouraging abductions will be pointed out to the authorities and made to face the consequences.”
The groups also committed to engaging in exchange visits amongst the various leaders.
“This will show cooperation amongst we, the leaders, and will make our people live in peace and harmony,” said Logidun Lotiboi.
Judisa Nyathin was one of four women who participated in the event.
“We are happy that we have come together as a community and are talking about our problems,” she said. “We do not want any child to die again from cattle raids and misunderstandings among our communities which in times past have always resulted in deaths, maiming and destruction of property.”
Isidore Boutchue, UNMISS Head of Civil Affairs in Bor, urged the community to live together peacefully so that development can take place and benefit all residents regardless of their tribal affiliations.
“When you fall, you must not stay there. You must rise and when you do, you must make sure that you do not fall again to the depths that you once dropped to.”