R-L: George Echom, William Loki and Agriculture Minister Jerome Gama briefing the press [©Gurtong]
By Peter Lokale Nakimangole
TORIT, 3rd June 2011 [Gurtong]– The Eastern Equatoria State in consultations with Jonglei authority and Bor communities have jointly resolved to return over 4,000 herds of cattle trespassing in Nimule in a week’s time, announced George Echom Ekeno who headed a fact-findings committee in Nimule.
This is in a bid to sensibly resolve the nearly one-month ongoing dispute between Madi farmers of Nimule in Eastern Equatoria State with Bor cattle herders of Jonglei State and to subsequently create an enabling environment of crop production in the area.
Echom was speaking during a press briefing late last month at Hotel Torit after his return from Nimule. “The move served to shun Bor farmers of Jonglei trespassing through cattle grazing in the two main areas of Nimule and Mugali of Madi community in EES,” he added.
The committee he heads was formed following a State Council of Ministers’ extra-ordinary meeting on 24th May under the then acting Governor Loluke’s leadership which served as a response to reports from the host community; Madi of Nimule via the Magwi County Commissioner, Mr. Peter Ochila.
The committee was charged with prime responsibility to unearth Madi’s complaints that were to promptly be addressed in order to avoid any conflict escalation between the two communities of Dinka from Jonglei who are at the same time IDPs in Nimule and Madi farmers in EES over animal trespass and massive crops damages.
The committee left for Nimule of Magwi County and upon arrival to Magwi town they were joined by the Magwi County Commissioner then headed to Nimule sub-County.
The team found that Dinka Bor cattle had arrived at Nimule in different days since a month ago and accumulatively began threatening resident’s livelihoods inside the town of Nimule in addition to trespassing in farms.
Echom said that they noted Madi community was upset over the situation as they bitterly kept protesting to immediately have Bor cattle withdrawn. They claimed that the cattle population was too big and some farms had already been destroyed. Even when garden guards were present, the flock outnumbered them leading to the trespass.
Echom explained that before they met the Dinka herders community, they visited Nimule National park, and other peripheries of Nimule town and other farms alleged to be threatened by cattle concentration.
While at Nimule National park, the animals’ figure stood at about 2,510 apart from other cattle camps at Mugali sub-County but he revealed when they later met the IDPs, they were told about 3,000 cattle were present. He said there were 4 cattle camps discovered to have settled around Nimule and Mugali sub-Counties.
In a key meeting held jointly with Madi farmers and Bor herders, Echom revealed that Madi insisted on the return of cattle as soon as possible. Even though cattle herders accepted, they still continued to appeal to the host community to allow them temporarily settle until 9th July, 2011 then move back home; Jonglei.
Echom told the press that the Madi farmers strongly rejected Bor’s plea saying that their animals were destroying their only farms which they solely depended on. He added that the cattle herders appealed to Madi for temporary cattle camps to use as transits as they find a way of moving back.
However, on their turn, Madi finally offered Aswa, a juncture where two rivers of While Nile and Aswa meet. But Madi warned that the pastoralists must only occupy for a period not exceeding one week as they would affect mutual relationships with the host.
The Madi are not pastoralists unlike their fellow Bor community of Jongeli. They are exclusively cultivators.
He revealed that the State Government stand after presenting and discussing his report to the State Council of Ministers concluded that the cattle had to move out of Nimule to Jonglei.
Some key officials in the Government including Mr. Echom, the Wildlife Minister, noted that it was not wise for IDPs (not natives of their current hosting States) to create tensions with their hosts. If they have to keep their cattle in larger numbers then they must move out to their home States out from EES clarifying that it was not only Jonglei but even other States’ IDPs still occupying EES.
Echom commented, “There will be no IDPs after independence since South Sudan will become their own nation.” Analysts have said that they see no reason why South Sudanese citizens should persist to remain in other States as IDPs particularly after Independence Day comes 9th July, this year.
Jerome Gama Surur, the Agriculture Minister who comes from the disputed area and a member of the committee to the disputed area of Madi, said it is possible for the cattle keepers and cultivators to co-exist only if they both have positive attitudes.
He said that they should understand themselves well by valuing animals and farms but the need to fence off animals from farms is important factor to avoid trespassing. Surur observed that it is not necessary for people to heavily depend on animals saying they should also grow crops and the same applies to cultivators.
Upon his return to Torit on Monday 30 from Ghana, the State Governor Loius Lobong Lojore told the press that he was informed of happenings in the State. He disclosed that he then took an initiative to contact his counterpart, Jonglei Governor Kuol Manyang Juuk together with Bor community’s chairperson on how to approach and amicably resolve the issue.
Lobong candied in, “Right now as we talk here, my colleague Kuol Manyang has advised to expect him sooner; so that the invaders can drive back their cattle with the help of forces facilitated by the two sisterly State Governments of Jonglei and EE.”
Echom disclosed to the media that they had also deployed a huge patrol of soldiers and other organized forces along Torit-Juba road to respond to rumours over a heavily armed men group intending to cross over to EES from Jonglei following the migrating cattle. However, he said so far they have not received any confirmed reports over the presence of the armed men. According to the rumours, the armed men are said to be the Murle pursuing their raided animals by the Dinka.