The immorality of cow tax in Lakes State: A letter to Daniel Awet Akot

BY: Agok Takpiny, JUN/28/2015, SSN;

On June 22 this year, Radio Miraya with Sebit Willaim on the Morning Breakfast Show, reported that the “Authorities in Lakes State are mulling over the possibility of introducing a tax on cattle. Under the proposals announced on Friday, cattle owners will be required to pay one South Sudanese pound per head of cattle they own.”

Daniel Awet Akot, the SPLM party chairman in Lakes State, says, “if introduced, the cattle tax will provide revenues needed to boost development in the state”.

This is troubling on many levels, the authorities in Lakes state, including Awet Akot are either inconsiderate or are utterly illiterate economically.

There are six main reasons why the government tax individuals or businesses. Let’s see where the cattle tax fits in.

Firstly, the government uses tax revenue to fund infrastructure, education, welfare and security. Under this view, citizens are obliged to pay taxes on their income from work if the taxpayer is an employee or from profits if the taxpayer is an investor.

In most cases an employee can be an investor at the same time and so he/she must amalgamate all his income from work and the profits from investment so that the yearly earning can be taxed as one.

In the case of South Sudan or Lakes state in particular, a question ought to be asked, where does the cow tax fit in here? Cows are mainly kept for consumption and not for commercial use and the cattle keepers are not working for an income generated employment neither, therefore the government purposing the cow tax is baseless.

Moreover, experience tells us that development has never been a priority for Lakes state authorities right from 2005 to present, therefore the claim made by the decorated General that taxing cattle keepers will boost development in the state is deceitful.

Secondly, a government can tax things that are believed to be negatively affecting the society’s behavior. For example, a year or so ago the state governor, Gen Matur Chut, issued a decree banning alcohol sale or consumption statewide with the exception of few semi-standard hotels.

The governor believed that alcohol was destroying young people and gelweng (cattle keepers) in particular.

In a sound economic policy aimed at social engineering or altering people’s behaviors, the state government should have just imposed high taxes on alcohol as a commodity which the government wants people to consume less of.

By imposing higher taxes, alcohol would become more expensive and out of reach for many people, hence higher prices will make people stop buying alcohol. Again, under this principle of taxation, the cow tax is unfair.

Thirdly, a government can use tax revenues to help the poor in the form of welfare. According to this view, wealthy people who have higher incomes have to pay more taxes as a way of reducing inequality of income.

Does the cow tax fit in here? Hardly, the cattle keepers are themselves among the poorest.

Furthermore, the widows of the heroes of our 21 years of struggle are now struggling without any help from neither the national nor state governments. South Sudan like many other African countries see welfare payment as a “waste” of money, hence the cow tax is unjustified.

Fourthly, the government can use taxation as a tool to control the inflation. One of the causes of inflation is ‘too much money chasing too few goods’. Government can take away the extra disposable incomes of the people through higher taxes and thus reduce the aggregate demand in the economy and resulting in a low inflation rate.

This principle of taxation has nothing to do with cattle keepers and their cows simply because cattle keepers don’t have money, some of them can go for many years without seeing 1 SSP.

The fifth principle which is about protecting local industry by taxing heavily the imported goods and charging low taxes on local produce is not applicable here.

And so do the six principles which are aimed at trade deficit or unbalanced payment where a government can tax imported goods more heavily to make them more expensive.

As explained above, the cow tax is immoral, it doesn’t serve a meaningful purpose. Although 1 SSP is not that big a sum, it is not easy for the cattle keeper to find. For example, if a man has 50 cows, he will then be required to pay 50 SSP a month; where will he get that money?

Of course he will have to sell one of his cows to be able to pay the tax. And if the authorities keep asking for the taxes, the cattle numbers will slowly diminish as there are not many more cows coming in.

By reducing the cattle numbers in the hands of cattle keepers this way, the quality of their lives will also decrease because cows in South Sudan don’t produce much milk like many other cows in the developed world where one cow produces 30 litres of milk a day, hence fewer cows mean even lesser milk for the family to live on.

Is that what a government is supposed to be doing, reducing the livelihood of poor and uneducated citizens who have no other means of income to live on? Where is the moral conscience of the leaders here?

Is this how the SPLM is supposed to pay back the Lakes state cattle keepers?

Mr Daniel Awet, instead of taxing the modest livelihood of the poor, you (SPLM) should be thinking of paying a compensation to the cattle keepers for their outstanding contribution during our struggle for the independence.

Mr Awet, you are better positioned than most of your colleagues to know what the cattle keepers have done throughout the 21 years of struggle. You have collected sheep, goats, grains, cooked food, milk and bulls and many other food items trillion times from the same people.

Cattle keepers were simply the backbone of the struggle, they did not only provide food to the soldiers, but they were also a means of transporting munitions and weaponry.

However, from 2005, like all cattle keepers across the country, no leader even bothered to acknowledge them and what they contributed for South Sudan to gain her independence.

Agok Takpiny is a concern South Sudanese citizen in Melbourne Australia, he can be reach at his email:


  1. info@southsudannation says:

    Mr. Agok Takping,
    Look at this issue from another perspective. During the colonial period there was a cow tax across South Sudan, at least it was imposed on the Bari cattle keepers in Juba District. Same thing in the East African countries.
    The main concern today in SPLM controlled South Sudan is that the ruling Dinka ‘kleptocrats’ have callously impoverished their own kin and kith while they, the thieves in Juba have become sinfully rich. They care less about those in the villages taking care of their cows.
    Just imagine what’s happening to those who are taking care of the five thousand cows of pres. Kiir that were recently repatriated back to his village in Warrap, will Kiir take proper care of those people and what is the use of those ill-begotten cows just grazing for no good in Warrap (or are they still in Luri farm?)
    If their millions of cows bought by their ill-begotten monies are taxed, that money collected, if used judiciously, could be used to bring big changes to those very Dinka forced to taking care of these ill-begotten wealth.
    There will be schools, roads, security and medical care available to those poor cattle herders.
    Your non-economic traditional cattle keeping will be greatly transformed into an economic activity that will benefit all the people.
    Furthermore, when your cows are tagged and registered, there will be no more cattle rustling, that’s those cows will not be raided and stolen, just as no more lives will be needlessly lost because of cows.
    Kudos to Daniel Awet for a long-delayed brilliant suggestion, now even our elders, the octogenarians (80’s) are thinking better the so-called leaders with the PhDs (ironically, it was one Commissioner of Lakes State during the SPLM/A war who gave the new definition to ‘PhD’ as Poverty, hunger and Disease– or death? remember!)

    • Agok Takpiny says:

      Dear Editor
      I completely agree with you that taxing those ill begotten thousands of cows and money put into proper use, it would be a good thing for everybody in those cattle keeping areas. however what I would like you to know is that those thousands ill begotten cows by the Juba crooks are just a drop in ocean when taken to either Lakes state or Warrap for that matter. There are millions of cows in Lakes state alone, but those cows are in the hands of almost everyone in the state, that mean no particular person or group of ordinary people owning more than 200. what this also mean is that those people who own few cows live below poverty line (if at all what equate to be consider poor or rich has been measured), and the last thing they need is to be hit with a tax. Cows in Lakes state are primarily kept for consumption, this mean the entire family which could be anywhere between 10 to 20 rely on those cows 100% for food and treatment when sick and school fees for one or two kids they might wish to take to school. The cows produce milk which is used to feed children and adult alike, when someone get sick in the family, one of the cow would have to be sold for that family member to afford the doctor and medication thereafter, when a child go to school, one or more cows will have to be sold to fund the school of that child (ren). Right now in Lakes state when you seel your cow, both the seller and buyer pay 10% tax on that one transaction, this is how it should be. We also have to remember since colonial time, people of Lakes state have been paying taxes in form of sorghum and groundnuts, in Lakes state before and now, when a young man get initiated regardless how old he actually might be, he will have to pay 2 tins of sorghum and one tin of groundnuts annually as a tax on his head. If you add a cow tax on them, you are then pushing them down more from their already modest living standard.

      On the issue of tagging, forget it, it is hard a task then census which you and I know that a government of our country cannot manage. And if hypnotically the government manage to tag all the cows, why should they be taxed when they are only there for family consumption? You are either in UK or Canada I belive, in those countries there are millions of cows in the hands of farmers, yes those cows are tagged, however, there is no tax put on them as far as I know. The government can only tax a farmer when he sell his cow. Yes for accounting purposes, the farmer must approximates the value worth of his entire herd but that figure is only written down as asset that will generate future income. hence the current value of unsold cows is not to be included as income for the current financial year, thus non taxable. So why would you want our poor citizens to be hit with immoral tax that is completely out of universal accounting principles?

      • info@southsudannation says:

        Agok Takping,
        Economically speaking, when the Jieng natives sell milk daily, that is technically called an income. If they sell a cow or some cows due to some upcoming problems or outstanding debts, that is an income.
        Since your people survive on the cows as you asserted, that’s also considered a way of income. It’s not like your cows are in a zoo…but again, one pays a fee just to visit the zoo!!!
        Therefore, the best advice is to educate your people to seriously take up the business of dairy, meat supply and selling the skin for leather and the horns for artifacts or other uses. Just one cow might turn out millions of SS pounds.
        The Jieng would divide the land into ranches….. just imagine a Texas or Colorado transforming in the lawless Lakes state. You will be the new George Bushes of South Sudan, millionaires from clean money and honest ways of earning the monies.
        Take care pal, just my dream.

  2. Dear Mr. Agok Takpiny:

    Daniel Awet Akot,he have to be careful! In the whole modern world,there are no government having cattle taxes! Having taxes on cattle owners,it will bring a big troubles to people!The south Sudan government in the country,has a bad taxation code system!Taxes can be collect from the butchers in the markets only in time when bulls being slaughters for food! Cattle taxes,will not bring development in the South Sudan totally at this point! The country needs effort to develop.

    One cow alone.will cost a lot of money for only one pound! Thank you for your message!

    Missouri,Kansas USA

    • Omang Rollo says:

      There are no reasons for doing that, we have oil revenues, business taxes and organisational taxes, taxation on cows can only be enforce when you take your cow to the market for sale. when the cow is sold, the government tax agency may levy 10% of the value as sale tax . at the time of Lagu and Abel, cows and sorghum were collected and sold off to raised money to feed children in the schools.

    • johnjerry says:

      Chief Abiko , it is through taxes that what you see as development comes from. The government does not have money and must collect taxes in order to run effectively.The Cattle tax must be introduce now nation wide.Cattle are destroying the ecosystem as they are left to destroy farmlands and forest causing environmental issues leading to desertification. The tax collected will be used to educate the people on environment and husbandry. They the cattle owners must buy land and make ranches for their animals, no cows should be left to destroy the the environment as we are watching.

      I would like the Governors of the three greater Equatoria to introduce the taxes now especially in Magwi County starting in Nimule. We must maintain the Green zones in these states.

  3. AGUMUT says:

    Be a government.i think what both Lakes State and Warrap State need are milk Factories,Butchers factories and big Refrigerators warehouses for Green Vegetables like Green beans,Maize,sweet potato’s.Potato’s and etc to create jobs for local people and government is going to collect big money instead of stupid one pound per cattle head. Those things are good for export.

  4. False Millionaire says:

    Yes the colonials taxed,”cows across South Sudan”.But that was to finance cow and cow keeper health care programs.Even as recently as 1970’s, veteranarian teams went to country sides to vaccinate cows and to advise cow keepers to avoid concentration of great number of cows in small grassing spaces as it would facilitate out break of destructive cow diseases.Also there were health care dispensaries to provide health care services and police posts to assure security among citizens.All those services were free and were the genuine justification for the taxes among which were cow taxes.

    Mr Agok has brought up a very desturbing problem and it’s a great surprise to see that it’s Mr Daniel Awet Akot,he himself a citizen issue of a cattle keeping country side familly,who is the author.
    The glorious days of the english system of taxing citizens for returned services has long collapsed and if the citizens are surviving,it’s due to their courage and God’s mercy.But instead of doing something to help them in his capacity as a high government degnitery,he is out to bury them deeper.This is a mean selfish behaviour for some one who has out lived his years of life expectancy.He ought to have no clue that public figures like him are expected to end their days in high esteem and dignity like late Issaiah Kolang Mabior.But who is out there to remind him?!!!

    • info@southsudannation says:

      False Millionaire,
      It seems quite clear that you are after the messenger but not after the message. If this form of taxation is effected properly and all the services you mentioned are provided, I think this will prove that Awet still has some useful brains despite your unfortunate assertion that “he has outlived his years of life expectancy.” Awet is a contemporary of Abel Alier.

  5. Omang Rollo says:

    AWendit came from a healthy family line, he may live up to 100 yrs.since he has been eating good all his life.

  6. False Millionaire says:

    sorry.Now I see we are targeting the same objective!!!

    • Joana Adams says:

      I have not read the article, I cannot ber to do so. my stomach is turning so bad. What I know is that, there are two types of people in this country: those who worship cows and those who want to reclaim back human rights and human dignity. The two types must never been put to co- exist together in the first place.


  7. Dr Andy Mursal says:

    Tax is usually imposed when there is wealth, income and expenditure. So cows can be considered wealth and the owners can pay tax to the state according to the number of cows they have. The State can come out with a lcoal order/rule/regulation so that anyone within the State with more than 100 cows is liable to Cow Tax, there is nothing wrong in that provided that funds collected is used for development and not for their pockets as is the pratice in South Sudan.

  8. pitya lo tongun says:

    The interesting question that will arise from the daniel’s drama is, who will pay the said taxes and what are the criteriors set to safeguard this money from corrupt hands?
    many plans are been design in this country with an intention known only by the designers but in the end is targeting the innocent civilians who have nothing to do with their political wrangling in J1 or wherever.
    I think the current leadership under SPLM party is the worse leadership, God have ever render to the people of south sudan.

  9. False Millionaire says:

    Taposa,Dedinga,Mundari,Murli,Anyuak,Nuer,Shilluk,Jur Chol,dinka and the rest of other cow keepers in RSS,whose love of cows superpasses the love for their own selfves therefore making the cows similar to objects of worship:if they constitute the cause of disturbance to those who,”reclaim back human rights and human degnity”,the hour has come to defy the bad God that put them,”to co-exist togather in the first place”.I would vote for any referndum that could set them apart!!!

  10. Dear Dr.Andy Musal:

    You real bring excellent point on your suggestion in your comment.But if the government put a heavy burden only on one side of the coin for wealthiers persons,it will be a recipe! Cattle are essential for owners for livelihood always! One cow will double one South Sudan Pound money(SSP) The state government will owe them! Asking cows for taxes,it will bring more problems in the country to people as much as possible uncontrolably! Remember that people in the country in the South Sudan,do not have jobs right now! It will be good if the country stop the civil strife that has gone for over 19 months! Taxes cannot be collected when there is insecurity in the country.Many people in the South Sudan in the country have scattered all over the neigbouring countries thereafter the attainment of the SELF RULE from the central government of Sudan based in north in the national capital in Khartoum on July 9,2011.Where will the revenue come from??? Foreign investors,come and take! Thank you! See you sometime at home in Torit! Maintain to keep the town quiet from SELF DESTRUCTION! Live in peace as one family as town of Torit of before! No more our common enemies will go there once and for all!! You have a wonderful day! I am doing wonderful! Find a place for me there at home town in Torit for a university! Torit has been left out! President Omer El Beshir,has broken his commitment! He said before,he would brought a university inTorit! He lied! he is a congenital liar!!!! He will be push out one day in power in Sudan! Time and unltimate action will tell on him!!!!

    Missouri,Kansas USA

  11. False Millionaire says:

    the great cause of handicap in the debate is the fact that the government in the person of Daniel Awet Akot is in hurry to impose cow tax without first defining what services are to be given in return.The absence of such definition is what makes the intiative appearing as another conspiracy to rob the cattle keepers who are allready down to the nick in poverty.

    I am even surprised why you have chosen to want to force the debate back to Mr Agok’s throat making him the undue trouble maker for bringing up the subject and the cattle keepers who are on the bringk of being robbed as the fools who have no knowledge how to exploite their cows to become RSS,”George Bushes”.
    If you could permit me to further my point,I don’t disagree with you in the huge economic potentials of,”business of dairy,meat supply,selling of the skins for leather and the horns for artifacts”.
    But all these are preconditionned by such external problems like consistent money circulation in the hands of consumers,transports network in the form of good roads linking production places with markets,best conditions of security and programs of health care for both the cows and the cow keepers.
    It seems you have forgotten that these conditions are only provided by the government.At this point,none of them is in place.As such,the cows have no other economic value than being mere sources of subsistant survival.

    I find it most unfortunate that your conceptual vision of cow economy is western and never south sudanese.How so long did the taxan and those of colorado take to develop their correct sense of cow keeping before succeeding to be,”millionaires”, with cow rooted economy?long time.But that doesn’t exclude the true fact that it was also their government’s policy to facilitate for them proper conditions that permitted them to progress up to the level of becoming cow business,”millionaires”.
    The cow tax the government takes from them is far too insignificant in comparison to the services that they get from the government and the huge economic wind falls from their cow business.

    Kindly Mr Editor,we should agree that success and failure of any country with it’s society depends heavily upon the intelligent values of their ruling elites.Germany is far well off today with many other countries England included shaking so precariously under the wheight of economic difficulties.
    But the most grave example for that matter is the case of Grece which is now bankrupt and being very likely to collapse socially and economically in the next few days.
    But how did it get there?Genuine political and economic analyists considered that Grece was a victim of successive generations of corrupt ruling elites who went to offices for their economic needs.They stole from the government but never helped the needs of their country during their times in the government nor with plans for the future.
    That’s exactly the scenario that’s playing it’s self against RSS and it’s society with the SPLM/A elites at the helm of power.
    Now who are the witch doctors:the poor cow keepers or the corrupt ruling SPLM/A elites among whom is Mr Daniel Awet Akot who wants to impose cow tax for nothing?!!!

  12. Chief Abiko! says:

    Dear:John Jerry

    Where would money gone from the government of South Sudan Republic?Never gettting me wrong?I responding on your words came from your own mouth on your comment.You said.The government have no money! Why? What is the problem??? This is President Salva Kirr responsibility!! He is the right person.He knows more than I am and every persons else in the country?

    Now,I come on cow poll taxes.Cow taxes,will bring vehement between owners and the government in the country! The cattle owners,may move the cattle out from the country in different places such as Sudan,Ethiopia, Kenya, when becoming burden. Where will you get cows to get revenue from?

    During in the precolonia era, in Sudan,British government ccollected cows and taken to England.But sometime later,they sold them to other countries for trading.Kept the money in the treasury.Thank you. Goodluck with you your cow taxes strategy! I watch at you forward!

    Missouri, Kansas USA

  13. johnjerry says:

    Chief Abiko,who is a government in the first place,it is you and me and the rest of us.Government collect taxes from the people and give back to the people in terms of services. All those people who own cattle must be taxed because that is wealth that is seen physically there is no reason why they should not be taxed.The cattle are destroying the environment
    the owners need to be trained and educated how to run and own the cattle to turn them into commercial use. This will stop cattle rustling leading into stable life style. If you want to own cattle buy a ranch and facilitate your Animals within we are in the 21st Century. Let go old traditions we live in changing world with time. Awet Awet keep pushing the the cow tax to become law. Good thinking.

  14. Dear: Mr.John Jerry

    I am not with you in the government! Your government is too corrupt more than ever! I do not partake with you a government if your mind is not MATURED! I wait for my better government! It is very blue with no bloods! It is a saving life keeper!

    Sir,I herded the cattle by myself from my father stable and in the zoo in the village. The cattle cannot go destroy environments which they are not supposed-to do!They are staying inside in the stable and in the zoo with the gates being closed.The doors open when taking them in the bush for grazing time with a great supervision in order not allow them go in people fields,farms,and the homes in the village.

    If those people the cattle owners you talking about,are neglecting on the cattle,the owners should be taken in court in order to fine when the assessment for the damages on the crops in the fields,and homes,have underwent.I was once in the town in Torit and in Juba.The cattle,did not live with people in the towns.They have their places far.Only goats,and sheep in the stable.They are well manage by owners.No problems were been complained by the residents in the towns dwellers Toritans. While in Juba,the cattle being kept away in the city. What you said on your comment onto me,they are pack of lies of your politics of your government South Sudan TWO! Thanks. Back to you to the audience!


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