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EU-backed Peace Promotion Events Bring Communities Together in South Sudan

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
EU-backed Peace Promotion Events Bring Communities Together in South Sudan
EU-backed Peace Promotion Events Bring Communities Together in South Sudan

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 5, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM is hosting a series of peace promotion events in South Sudan to bring conflicting communities together to cooperate and share resources, in a context of escalating inter-communal violence.

The events form part of IOM's EUR 4.9 million Peace and Stability Quick Impact Fund programme (PSQIF) established in 2012 with the support of the European Union (EU)'s Instrument for Stability.

Through the PSQIF, IOM is working with local partners to provide quick, flexible and visible peace-building and stabilizing interventions in the States of Warrap, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Unity, which border Sudan.

Limited access to water, frequent cattle raids and clashes between ethnic groups have long fueled community tensions and violence in those areas. These tensions are exacerbated by a lack of communication between communities, leading to mistrust and an ongoing cycle of revenge attacks for past grievances. Earlier this year the region saw renewed violence between pastoralist groups and resident communities, as well as several cattle raiding incidents.

In this context, the PSQIF aims to deter future conflict by providing much-needed resources, including shared water sources, marketplaces and other key infrastructure, while at the same time working to strengthen mutual confidence and trust by fostering inter-community dialogue.

The inaugural peace promotion event was held on 28th March in Kuajok, the capital of Warrap State. In the past year Warrap has been heavily afflicted by violence, mainly stemming from cattle raiding.

The event brought together over 100 women, men and children, as well as community leaders, local government officials and IOM representatives.

At the event, speakers expressed their enthusiasm for working together to share in the economic and peace-building benefits created through the PSQIF interventions. In Warrap State, these interventions include the construction of a water catchment basin for cattle, boreholes for drinking water and marketplaces that will bring neighboring communities together to interact and trade.

“When people come together and talk to each other, they appreciate their common identity, and know that the solutions to their problems need to come from within,” said Marko Madut Garang, Peace Coordinator for Warrap State from the South Sudan Peace & Reconciliation Commission. “With this foundation set by the EU and IOM, the government will be able to continue promoting the dividends of peace.”

Although the attendees of the event in Kuajok came from different counties and tribes, some of which had previously been in conflict, the crowd mixed together freely and applauded the calls for unity from the speakers. In addition to speeches from government officials, members of the community and IOM, local entertainers sang and played music, and a group of children performed a traditional dance for the audience.

“We fought for our independence, and now we have our freedom – why are we still fighting?” Luac Deng Koor, a local chief, asked the crowd in Kuajok. “Let's be one people.”

A second peace promotion event will be held in Warrap Town on 6 April, with further events planned in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Unity states throughout the month.

Additionally, the PSQIF will soon be expanded to Jonglei State, which has been wracked by intense inter-tribal and military conflicts in recent months.

The PSQIF's grassroots nature and close involvement with local partners allows the programme's message of cooperation and reconciliation to reach often difficult to access civilian populations. Building on such positive signs, IOM and the EU are seeking to extend the PSQIF approach to Jonglei State, where violence continues unabated.

“The positive response to the PSQIF interventions shows that people are eager to build lasting peace in their communities,” said IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission Vincent Houver. “It is our hope that we can build on these successes to bring dialogue and understanding to other parts of South Sudan where violence has become entrenched.”