News & views | 1 June 2018 | by Anton Quist0
Community peace resolutions agreed between Payinjiar, Yirol and Amongpiny
-GANYLIEL- From 14-18 May 2018, a joint community peace meeting was organized in Ganyliel in which community representatives of Payinjiar, Yirol and Amongpiny have agreed to make peace with one another. These locally initiated resolutions towards peace signify the start of a peace process in which the Nuer of Payinjiar and the Dinka of Yirol and Amongpiny strive to reconcile after years of communal conflict and mutual fear.
For years, the relationship between the three neighboring communities was marred by violent cattle raiding, and targeted killings of traders and travelers along the Nile. Historically, there had been cooperative relationships between the communities but different cycles of local and national conflict altered that into negative stereotypes and fear of the other community.
Since 2015, PAX has been supporting local partner Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA) to promote peaceful relations within and between communities in Payinjiar county (formerly part of Unity State) and Eastern Lakes State. In 2017, both areas were surveyed during the Human Security Survey project in South Sudan, in which not only new insights were gathered about security dynamics in these two states, but also a process of community engagement was initiated in which local government authorities, law enforcement agencies and civil society were able to discuss and prioritize local security issues that should be most urgently addressed. (more on the survey outcomes can be found here and here)
During the community dialogue of last October in Payinjiar, where representatives from all villages across the county were gathered, discussions revealed that addressing cross-border insecurity between Payinjiar and Yirol communities was considered the highest priority among participants. Because of the communal conflict, innocent lives were lost, large amounts of cattle was raided, lush grazing areas and fishing grounds on the border remained underutilized and mutual trade had ceased completely. Resultantly, both local authorities and communities participating in the dialogue in Payinjiar pleaded us to extend their willingness for peace to the neighboring communities in Yirol.
Soon after the dialogue in Payinjiar, meetings with local authorities in Yirol were called where the offer for peace from Payinjiar was validated, discussed and ultimately accepted. From then onwards, practical preparations began by local partner AMA, even though potential spoilers on both local and national levels made the road towards organizing a peace conference far from straightforward: a number of cattle raids and river killings in the first months of 2018 delayed the process of rapprochement considerably.
Last week the moment was finally there: a chartered plane brought a delegation from Yirol to Ganyliel, where they were warmly welcomed by the local Commissioner and chiefs. The peace conference was attended by a total of 40 participants, largely comprised of community and border chiefs, women leaders and youth leaders. Representatives from neighboring Amongpiny (Rumbek East, Western Lakes State) were invited as well as they had just re-established positive relations with Payinjiar what also would be important for Yirol. They could act as observers, although most of them were not allowed to attend due to security clearance issues. After three days of exchange, a list of 14 resolutions was agreed and signed.
In these resolutions, the path towards peace and reconciliation has been initiated, freedom of movements in the areas was decreed, and mobilization and sensitization among the two communities in supporting the peace process and turning away from violence, cattle raiding and distrust will be encouraged. Furthermore, accountability for border violence in the future, as well as means of addressing the consequences of these incidents (like systems of redress and compensation in case of murders or cattle raids occurring in the future) will be subject to further mutual deliberations, starting with a broader peace conference to be held over the next few months in Yirol.