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Jie and Murle communities undertake to bring anyone involved in buying and selling children to justice

A combined group of Kabirize women at the closing of Jie-Murle conference in Jebel Buma

In July 2019, the Jie and Murle communities engaged in a bloody fight in Marua and other villages of South Sudan’s Boma area. The fight, in the Greater Jonglei region, left 85 people dead, while several others were wounded in what became the year’s worst raid.

The raid left a trail of destructions, with numerous children abducted, and over 45,000 cattle raided.

“I lost three relatives, and two of my children were abducted,” says Mary Gordon Ngaloki, recounting the devastation of the raid upon her.

As a result, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), has been trying to mitigate this endemic problem by creating a platform for the age-set groups – thus defined and named according to their age in Murle and Jie cultures – to explore and address the 22-year-long inter-communal conflict.

It is through these efforts that a two-day forum organised by UNMISS saw Jie and Murle communities agreeing to hold perpetrators of these protracted inter-communal ills accountable.

“They also agreed to stop child abduction and arrest those who are involved in buying and selling of children,” Jebel Buma County Commissioner Alston Logony said, as he read out the resolutions of the two-day forum, facilitated by the UNMISS Civil Affairs Division.

The crime of child abductions has hitherto been very lucrative, with the diabolic business fetching between 30-50 cows per child, depending on the victim’s sex and where they were abducted from. With an average cow costing $600, this amounts to between $18,000 and $30,000.

During these raids, the elderly and vulnerable members of the community become victims of cross-fire and revenge killings.

 “You need to make peace with your neighbours. And by making peace with your neighbours, you are protecting your children,” said Deborah Schein, UNMISS Head of Office in Greater Jonglei, during the forum.

At the end of deliberations over the weekend, the two communities also agreed to reconcile and to co-exist in peace.

Besides cattle raiding and child abduction, they identified other causes of the conflict as ambushes, killing and mutilation of children, access to water and grazing land, and the political power conspiracies by leaders who incite tribesmen.

The two-communities tasked their chiefs and local authorities to address all the identified causes of fighting, as they urged UNMISS to extend the peace conferences to other villages.