‘Youth need livelihood skills to end violence, not disarmament’

To end cattle-related conflicts in South Sudan, a senior government official has suggested provision of training on livelihood skills to rural youth.

Cattle raiding, a longstanding practice among pastoralists in South Sudan, was historically governed by cultural authorities and ritual prohibitions, according to researchers.

This is often attributed to high bride prices, given the fact that South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Only few families can afford to raise between 30 to 100 heads of cattle. Many men, who are unable to meet the demands, engage in cattle raids, according to reports.

Subsequently, cycles of raids and retaliatory counter-raids between communities sow the seeds of resentment that allow armed youth to be mobilized rapidly by political leaders.

Last week during the swearing-in ceremony of the new minister of defense and veteran affairs, President Salva Kiir directed the minster to carry out disarmament across the country to curb the insecurity in the society.

However, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Peace Building believes that disarmament would not help the situation.

Pia Phillip said: “I don’t buy that idea [disarmament]. That’s a secondary issue. It’s not about the guns, it’s about what else they can use to survive and earns a living.”

He said the conflicts are being driven by the economic challenges and disarmament will not be a better option if the youth are not given other livelihood skills.

More than 70 percent of South Sudan’s population is under the age of 30, but South Sudanese youth lack education, skills, and work opportunities, according to USAID.

Philip argues that, with right skills in carpentry, masonry, agri-business and several others, some youth would find no need in carrying guns.

“I might have a weapon with me at home but I’m working. I’m getting some salaries. Then the weapon is rendered useless because I cannot use the weapon to go and fight and raid people to feed my children because I have an alternative,” he explained.

The government has carried out dozens of disarmament exercises in the country. But guns still find themselves in the hands of youth – a situation civil society groups blame on politicians.

“Until we give our young people alternative sustainable livelihood skills for them to earn their living, just as we do we who are in the offices, it will not be a question of guns, the weapons will go silent by themselves,” he added.