Two communities in South Sudan’s Jonglei State have signed a peace agreement to end a deadly conflict over grazing land that has claimed 37 lives in the past two months.
The Jonglei State deputy governor says the communities from Bor South County agreed to create a buffer zone so security forces can be deployed to keep the two clans apart. The agreement signed last week followed talks mediated by Jonglei State officials and South Sudan Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juk.
Under the deal, the Nyara and Biong communities agreed to resolve their land disputes through peaceful means, including a court of law.
Jonglei State Deputy Governor Agot Alier told VOA's South Sudan in Focus the main message conveyed to them by Defense Minister Lt. General Kuol Manyang Juukand Jonglei State Governor Philip Aguer was “that peace has to return to that area as quickly as possible.”
Fifteen people were killed and scores of others injured last week when fighting flared up between the herders over grazing land.
Deputy Governor Alier says the agreement requires both communities to vacate the contested area so the government can deploy security forces to the area to keep the peace.
"One community has to move further southward and the other community move further northward. One area is an area of DDR (disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration) just adjacent to Pariak. Biong-Machayiel has to move to that site and the other party that is Nyara has to move to the area of Jam to give room to the government forces to maintain peace and security among these communities so that (there is) no recurring conflict again that may cost more lives,” Alier told South Sudan in Focus.
Bheer Pach, a Nyara community leader who signed the deal on behalf of his community, says the Nyara have begun to vacate the disputed area.
“We have started to vacate the area but we have not yet moved our property and personal effects. There are challenges of course because relocating families needs some preparation,” Pach told South Sudan in Focus.
Ngor Garang, who signed on behalf of the Biong community, told VOA his community is ready to end the dispute and coexist peacefully.
“As a leader of Biong community, we have agreed to implement the agreement, and that was what I was told by Aguer and Kuol during the meeting.
As a result we have released nine Nyara people whom we captured during the fighting. We want peace and we are committed to implementing what we have signed,” said Garang.
Under the agreement, state officials will select one community at a time to take their cattle for grazing on the disputed land surrounded by Malual, Laguli, Akot and Wun-Ruar cattle camps.