Communities in the Lakes region of South Sudan are being urged to end a culture of violence and revenge attacks so that development can take place and youth get the opportunity they deserve to access education.
The recommendation was made at the end of a two-day conference held in Mapuordit Payam in Ngop that brought together 75 representatives from the Eastern, Western and Amadi regions. The conference, hosted by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, reviewed arrangements for cattle migration and how to reduce cattle raiding among communities.
Since South Sudan gained independence in 2011, communities in the area have been engaged in deadly conflict including cattle rustling, theft, robbery and road ambushes.
A youth leader at the conference said that the lack of jobs available in the region were a major cause of conflict.
"One of the biggest problems affecting youth and encouraging them to join other activities, not of their choice, is the lack of work," said Jafara Moses. "We should not completely depend on the government to give us employment, we should also be creative, we should create jobs for ourselves, we should be very realistic and we should be self-reliant."
Another youth representative, John Rach Mabor, called on youth in possession of illegal firearms to hand them over to the government.
"My message to you, my fellow youth, is to lay down all unauthorized guns you are owning, it is not yours, those guns belong to the government," he said.
Women representatives at the conference expressed their concern about the security situation, saying many women and children had been forced to abandon their homes because they were afraid of sexual violence and the looting of their property.
"As a mother, we are tired of running up and down to hide ourselves for fear of getting raped and looted by armed youths," said Achingor Majak Malou from AluakLuak. "I appeal you my sons (referring to armed youth) to denounce violence against innocent women and children."
Participants at the conference also suggested that high bride prices were encouraging young men in the region to carry out cattle raids to gather the necessary number of cows to pay the dowry.
"Cattle raids frequently occur due to skyrocketing bride prices in the Lakes region," said Amadi Deputy Governor, Manash Doboyi. "As a concerned neighbor, I challenge you (my brothers and sisters) in Western and Eastern Lakes, to reduce by law bride price in order to mitigate cattle thefts and raids."
The conference ended with a series of recommendations, including the disarmament of civilians across the three regions, the establishment of police posts in hotspots with deployment of security forces along the main roads to mitigate cattle raiding.