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South Sudan Women Seek Jonglei Peacemaking Role

A woman from the Dinka tribe stands in front of her shelter near Bor, Jonglei state, in South Sudan, March 31, 2012. South Sudanese women want a greater role in peacemaking in the restive state.
South Sudanese women called at a three-day conference in Bor Thursday for women to play a bigger role in ending violence in restive Jonglei state, where some 2,600 people died in clashes in the 20 months from January 2011 to September 2012.

Some 100 women took part in the conference this week to discuss ways they can help to curb conflict in the state of Jonglei, which is linked to cattle raids, inter-ethnic clashes, and a rebellion led by David Yau Yau.

The women condemned an attack, blamed on Yau Yau's rebels, on a UN convoy on Tuesday in which five Indian peacekeepers were killed.

In January this year, more than 100 people, mainly women and children, were killed in Jonglei in one of the most deadly cattle raids in South Sudan in years.

Participants at the conference laid out a series of resolutions and vowed to teach women around Jonglei to be active peacemakers, Ann Lino Abyei, who represents the state in the National Assembly, said.

"We are going to tell women... 'be peacemakers’. Not only talk about peace, but be peacemakers. We are going to have an action plan whereby we have to go to all places so that we hold women responsible," Lino said.

Part of the conference-goers' plan is to appeal to mothers to educate their sons, and keep an eye on goings-on in their villages.

"If something happens, we'll say, ‘Huh? Where are the women of this village? Why did your sons come and attack these places?’”
Ann Lino Abyei, Jonglei lawmaker

"If something happens, we'll say, ‘Huh? Where are the women of this village? Why did your sons come and attack these places?’”Lino said.

The conference drew more than 100 participants from across Jonglei's 11 counties.

In addition to placing some of the responsibility for preventing attacks on women, the participants at the conference also called for steps to be taken to lower the price of dowries in Jonglei, which can sometimes run into the hundreds of head of cattle.

South Sudan still has a strong dowry tradition, although there are calls to end it completely. Some of the deadly cattle raids that plague the country are carried out by men who "go to raid and to kill simply because of the high dowry," Lino said.

Reducing the dowry to around 10 cows would go a long way toward reducing the number of cattle raids in the region, she said.