Peter Ring Arik
The two neighbouring communities of Tonj and Gok have agreed to establish a joint border court to arbitrate cases of inter-communal violence. The court, to be comprised of seven traditional chiefs, will have jurisdiction on thefts and killings related to cattle.
The conference, under the theme “Promoting cross border peace and social cohesion”, brought together youth, women, intellectuals, traditional leaders, government officials, religious leaders and civil society activists.
Asked about importance of this court, one of the longest serving chiefs, Gum Mading Akuecbeny, optimistically stated that with proper backing from local authorities and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, justice and peace will reign once again.
“Community justice programmes don’t merely resolve individual cases but seek to solve community problems long-term,” he said. “As traditional leaders, we need to minimize or stop for good cattle raids, revenge killings and road ambushes through strict administration of justice between Tonj and Gok.”
Manyang Mading, on behalf of the cattle camp youth known locally as Gel-Weng, emphasized that it is imperative to hold perpetrators of crimes accountable and hopes the establishment of a joint court will make that happen. Gel-Weng is a Dinka word that literally means “to protect cows” from potential raiders.
“Setting up a joint court will reinstate stability and rule of law between our communities. For so long, our people have suffered because of impunity,” he said.
Ms. Achol Malek, a women’s representative, decried the impact the conflict has had on women and girls. She appealed to rivaling border communities to embrace each other for harmonious relations to prevail.
“We have suffered a lot as mothers, sisters and wives. This conflict has robbed our community of basic human rights. Women and girls are being raped and even killed,” she stated.
Presiding over the closing ceremony, Tonj governor Mathiang Magordit commended participants for choosing to solve their differences amicably.
“You are serving as an example to other states in South Sudan and leading the way in cooperation and promotion of peaceful co-existence among communities,” he said.
The peace conference was facilitated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)