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South Sudan Cattle Raiders Sentenced to Death by Hanging

FILE - Cattle keepers walk with their cows near Tonj, South Sudan, Feb. 16, 2020.
FILE - Cattle keepers walk with their cows near Tonj, South Sudan, Feb. 16, 2020.

A judge in South Sudan's Jonglei state has sentenced two men to death for stealing two cows and killing the man who owned the animals.

Officials say they hope the judge's sentence will deter other cattle raiders in Jonglei, where cattle raiding and child abductions are rampant.

High court judge John Yiel Aleu sentenced 30-year-old Kuorwel Majok Mayom and 25-year-old Chol Manyiel Jool to death by hanging on Tuesday in the state capital, Bor.

Majok and Manyiel were found guilty of killing John Buol Dut and stealing his cows last December when the cattle were being moved from Bor to Awerial County in Lakes state.

The judge said the death penalty was appropriate for the crimes committed.

"The court followed its procedures and today it passed its judgment that the accused Kuorwel Majok and Chol Manyiel have been convicted under Section 305 and 206 penal code act 2008 and they are sentenced to death," he announced in court.

Michael Khor Dut, a brother to the deceased, welcomed the punishment.

"This gentleman was killed intentionally. Why? Because of his cattle. He was not a cattle keeper, he was just a university student who was taking his cows to the cattle camp," said Dut.

Malueth Nyok, an uncle to both convicted men, called the ruling unfair. Nyok argued there was no direct evidence introduced in court that linked his nephews to Dut's murder.

"There is no evidence that shows that these gentlemen beat the deceased with the stick, no one saw them doing that. We see that cattle get lost and these cattle were lost and that is why they were being kept so that the owner would come and take them," Nyok told VOA's South Sudan in Focus.

The family will appeal the ruling within the next 14 days, according to Nyok.

Strong message

Although cattle raids and child abductions are common in Jonglei state, very few suspected cattle raiders are ever arrested or prosecuted.

Activist David Garang with the Jonglei Civil Society Alliance said capital punishment sends a strong message to would-be cattle raiders.

"If they are sentenced to death, that is the right way of doing it because there is no one who has the right to take another person's life, so it is a very good step for the justice to take its course because this time here we need justice to prevail. If there is justice, then all these atrocities will stop," Garang told South Sudan in Focus.

Garang said communities will only be safe when cattle raiders, child abductors and other perpetrators of serious crimes are arrested and brought to justice.