Pastoralism under stress
The separation of Sudan and South Sudan has caused severe problems for the pastoralists living in the borderlands between the two nations. What used to be common land is now subject to border disputes and strict regulations, but cattle and goats do not respect international borders.
For centuries, pastoralists have driven their livestock back and forth in the borderlands between the southern parts of Sudan and South Sudan. Their way of living depends on access to grazing areas across what is now an international border. This access has been restricted by the separation of the two states.
-Pastoralism as a livelihood is under stress. When tension rises between the two states, life gets harder for the pastoralists in the borderlands, says Munzoul Assal, Professor at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the University of Khartoum and one of the project leaders in the Sudanese-Norwegian cooperation ARUSS.
Negotiating local agreements
The new borders were drawn within an area where Sudanese pastoralists used to migrate freely. After the separation of Sudan and South Sudan, pastoralists have to negotiate local agreements with border patrols to be allowed to cross the border freely. In return for this permission, they have to pay a small, symbolic tax to the border patrol. For now, the locally negotiated agreements seem to work. Denied access to grazing areas is not yet a big problem. Yet, whenever tensions between Sudan and South Sudan rise, enforcement of regulations gets stricter, and checks get more widespread and elaborate. This complicates life for groups that do not even have a clear identity as Sudanese or South Sudanese.
-If pastoralists are denied free movement between their grazing lands, their way of life is at stake. The people in the borderland areas have lived together for centuries. What makes life tough for them is that now the state interferes with their way of life, says Assal.
Exploring borderland issues
The split of the two Sudans has also led to problems for other groups residing in the borderlands. Many farmers have traditionally had access to fertile soil and cultivated the land on both sides of the border for centuries. Their lifestyle and livelihood will be difficult to maintain without a softening of the border and of the practices regulating access across the border.
The borderlands have also traditionally been an important area for trade. These activities are also vulnerable in the face of strict border regulations.
Through their research on the borderland dynamics, the researchers from ARUSS hope to provide policy advice and influence policymakers. They are currently exploring the dynamics in the borderlands between Sudan and South Sudan, but will also do research in the borderlands between Sudan and Ethiopia. There are still many unsolved challenges and unsettled disputes over the Sudan-South-Sudan border, and governance and regulations on the local as well as the national level will shape the livelihoods and opportunities of the people inhabiting the area.
-The people in the borderlands depend on good relations across the border, and any decisions and policies on how to mind the border should be based on an informed opinion. What is already clear is that we need soft borders. Civil society is working to make this happen, and there are many actors actively trying to influence the governments in Sudan and South Sudan, says Assal.