Indigenous peacekeeping by pastoralists in the two Sudans
The Bahr Alarab River forms the political boundary between Sudan and South Sudan and the natural boundary between the Messeriya and Rezaighat Baggara Arab pastoralists to the north and the Dinka Malual and Nuer to the south. The river system provided the basis for a symbiotic and peaceful co-existence between these diverse ethnic pastoral groups for more than three decades. The pastoralists, through a well-articulated seasonal migration cycle, shared grazing, hunting and fishing areas, and traded consumer commodities in what they called “peace markets”. Customary laws enforced by their tribal leaders through joint tribal courts governed these pastoral practices. With the separation of the Sudan into two sovereign states – Sudan and South Sudan – in June 2010, new political and security realities emerged, adversely impacting the lives of these pastoral groups. The traditional administration that used to monitor the common border was changed into a semi-military structure on both sides. To circumvent this drastic change of governance and to continue their mutual relationships, the pastoralist communities north and south of the river conducted a series of tribal conferences during 2011, culminating in the signing of a joint protocol, This stipulated in detail how they should share the natural resources in the river system, regardless of the political changes and hostilities between their two nations. The paper “People to people diplomacy in a pastoral system: a case from Sudan and South Sudan” by Ali Jammaa Abdalla, published in Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice in 2013, describes this pragmatic local initiative.