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Forging peace and harmony in South Sudan: “Our children deserve better”

“Our children deserve better. We are giving our best to participate in this peace conference”, says Nyaluak Duoth, a woman leader in Upper Nile State. 

World Vision, through Accelerating Recovery and Resilience in South Sudan (ACCESS) Project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with Nile Hope organized a-four-day peace conference for Ying and Ririyang communities of Ulang County.

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Community chiefs, for the first time in two years, crossed the river safely to join the peace conference.

 

For several years, the two communities were in conflict which resulted in the loss of lives, frequent cattle raids, internal displacement, destruction of properties, among others. 

The conference brought together Ulang County leaders, the Ying and Ririyang payams chiefs, boma administrators, elders, women leaders, children and youth representatives and the white army to address the recurring communal violence and end the conflict sustainably. 

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Ulang County Commissioner Riak Galuak welcomes the participants to the peace dialogue and commits to ensuring the agreements are implemented.

 

Upper Nile State’s Ulang County comprises five payams and borders with Baliet County to the north and Nasir County to the northeast. The county’s 2008 Census registered a population of 85,044.

The national conflict escalated the ethnic divisions between various community groups within the Sobat Corridor increasing violence, revenge killings, and cattle raids, particularly in Ulang and Nasir.

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Nyaluak Duoth (far right) and the women in Ying Payam expressed joy as they all dressed in yellow, their sign of acceptance and readiness for peace.

 

The local authorities have tried to mitigate the conflict and settle disputes but more efforts are needed to resolve intra-ethnic conflict for the long-term. 

County Commissioner Riak Galuak, joined by Reath Gach, the Commander General of Greater Nassir, moderated the dialogue. Commissioner Riak says, “This dialogue will focus on finding solutions to the issues encouraging peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.”

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Over 20 elders, women leaders, humanitarian actors including World Vision and Commissioner Riak Galuak signed the resolution.

 

The two communities are just 30 minutes away from each other by motorboat and two hours by canoe. Juol Khor Ririyang is one of the elders to cross over to Ying for the first time in two years.

He shares, “The two communities are born of twin brothers, but we have seen hate and pain because of the revenge killings. I am tired and I hope that this dialogue will bring us back together as one people.”

This is an opportunity for the people to come together to discuss the root causes of conflict—to enhance harmony and cohesion.

Pur Kuiy, the paramount chief of Ying Payam, said that when he was young, his elder brother was killed because of revenge, and now he has lost a son in the same way.

“This is the second time I have yet lost someone. Instead of revenge, I choose to forgive and reconcile first with myself and then the community because of what I have learned today”, Kuiy adds.

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The women cook together for the symbolic meal for peace that was shared by the leaders and community people.

 

“I am excited to see a day like this. Waking every morning to the fright and hate on children’s faces instead of joy is heartbreaking to us mothers. I appeal to the youth to embrace the spirit of togetherness”, Nyaluak Duoth adds.

Ying and Ririyang youth leaders Gatkek Goy and Panom Lual pledged to live peacefully and protect each other. They say, “We will take the lead in this peace initiative. Instead of hunting each other to kill, we will be our brother’s keeper.”

On signing the resolution, both communities agreed to compensate the lives lost with cows according to traditions before February 2022. Riak adds, “Those killed on the frontline are compensated with 50 cows per person and victims of revenge killing will be paid 75 cows.”

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Listening intently to the discussions, the participants left their homes for four days to join in the dialogue and get their voices heard.

 

“I appreciate the partners for supporting this peace initiative, I will personally see to it that the agreement is fulfilled for peace to reign”, the commissioner further adds.

Erickson Bisetsa, ACCESS Project’s Chief of Party says, “The peace dialogue is one of the approaches World Vision and USAID/Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), and our two partners Nile Hope and Humanitarian and Development Consortium (HDC), is using to strengthen social cohesion in the community.” 

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The people who attended the dialogue believe, especially the mothers, that the children deserve a better, and peaceful, future.

 

Bisetsa further adds, “This is an opportunity for the people to come together to discuss the root causes of conflict—to enhance harmony and cohesion. Sustainable peace in the Sobat corridor will enable communities to participate in project activities that will sustain resilience to shocks and chronic stresses.”

Erickson thanked the Ulang County Commissioner and the  Relief and Rehabilitation Commission for their support, and concludes, “We look forward to work together in facilitating more peace dialogues in the county and neighboring communities of Baliet, Nasir and Jonglei.”

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Story and photos by Scovia Faida Charles Duku, Communications Coordinator