Cattle in Warrap State South Sudan (file photo 2009)
Cattle in Warrap State South Sudan (file photo 2009)

AWEIL, SOUTH SUDAN - South Sudanese officials have pointed to cattle rustling as the key cause of insecurity in the Bahr el Ghazal area and called for more help from state governments and a change in the South Sudanese mindset to help to fight the problem.

Part of the problem, Santos Domic Chol, Security Advisor to the Lakes state caretaker governor, said at a three-day conference on the social, economic and political issues facing Bahr al Ghazal, is the prestige associated with owning cattle and the slow pace of South Sudan's legal system.

Criminal cases take "a long time, and the local member of the community feels that the law has been denied. Then, of course, everybody is obliged to take the law into his or her own hands,” he said.

Like much of the rest of South Sudan, communities in Bahr al Ghazal use cattle to pay dowries, which in some communities can run as high as 200 to 300 head of cattle.

Young men who have no cattle to pay a dowry often raid other communities.

Chol urged local leaders to teach their communities to keep cattle for commercial purposes rather than for prestige, and to revamp the education system, to train South Sudanese youth to do skilled work.

More than 100 people have been killed since the beginning of the year in cattle raids around South Sudan, including in the Bahr el Ghazal region near the border with Sudan.