Revenge killings are common place in Rubkona, South Sudan. Corruption is rife. When violent perpetrators escape justice, too often members of the community take justice into their own hands. These attacks can quickly escalate, drawing in government security forces and other communities. Tensions have been mounting between locals and the government, and in Rubkona recently this tension was at breaking point when our local partners in South Sudan stepped in.
Our partners have been working to resolve conflict by setting up “peace committees” throughout South Sudan. These are made up of elected representatives of the surrounding communities. They welcome everyone to join, regardless of political or tribal affiliation, and they work with communities to mediate in disputes and stop them from erupting into large-scale violence. Recently, a peace committee was held in Rubkona.
Tribal leaders from the 10 payams (districts), and community representatives including women and young peopl, came to the committee to meet with local government officials. When the group was asked to identify the root causes of the conflicts in their community, most fingers pointed to the government officials. The atmosphere was tense. The discussion became heated, even threatening to break into a brawl, but, at this crucial moment, the principle chief of Rubkona stepped in to defuse the situation.
As the foundations for peaceful discussion were laid, practical proposals for establishing peace were built. As the peace committee settled the group, the local government officials promised to involve both the tribal leaders and the women of the community in their decision-making, and agreed to maintain meetings with local community representatives. The community leaders suggested that the young people should be mobilised to help build peace, and it was agreed that employment opportunities should be considered for young people in order to reduce idleness. It was then decided that more small peace committees will be formed to work within the payams at a grassroots level.
By the time the session ended, the atmosphere within the group had changed from threateningly flammable to productive and calm. The group were able to work together to decide on practical solutions to resolve the wider conflict in Rubkona. Particularly ground-breaking was the opportunity for local women to get involved in these discussions. For the first time, women from the community were able to have their opinions listened to, to voice their concerns and to learn from each other’s experiences.
The foundations for peace have been laid, thanks to our local partners’s work in establishing peace committees. With the cycle started for more committees and more peacebuilding discussion, as in Rubkona, our local partners are bringing hope for peace throughout South Sudan.
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