Last Thursday marked the fourth anniversary of South Sudan’s independence from Sudan. The separation of the South from the rest of the country was agreed in 2005 and ended two decades of bitter civil war that left 2 million people dead and 4 million displaced. But this year’s anniversary is not a moment of peace and stability, for it has been overshadowed by violent political unrest and rising refugee numbers.
Eruptions of violence in Sudan – particularly in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states – has culminated in a refugee crisis. 250,000 people have fled over the border to the South, while 1.5 million remain internally displaced. Refugees fleeing persecution and violence face an uncertain and unstable future. Families are corralled into over-crowded camps, rife with disease and ripe for religious extremism.
Amid such volatile civil unrest and rampant violence, the need for locally led peacebuilding in Sudan is great – especially as outsiders are seldom allowed to access the worst hit areas. Seemingly mundane disputes between groups can reignite century-old tribal feuds, escalating ill-feeling and tension into sudden and devastating conflict. For example, early in 2010, a local dispute over water descended into violence, leaving 23 young men dead. The situation calls for experts on the ground, accustomed to the local history and culture, to inspire the peaceful and mutually beneficial mediation of disputes between warring tribes and communities.
Peace Direct have supported the local Sudanese organisation Collaboration for Peace (CfP) since 2006. CfP specialise in conflict mediation – working with tribal elders and community leaders from all factions, religions, and backgrounds to foster reciprocal, sustainable peace in the war-torn nation. They have successfully set up eight peace committees, operating in the most volatile and turbulent regions in Sudan, comprising local representatives elected by their own communities. Their commitment to consensual, democratic dialogue has been remarkably successful in resolving long-term disputes and in halting the escalation of violence, by its rapid-response mediation.
As thousands of people flood over the border between the two countries – 38,000 South Sudanese entered Sudan in June alone – the effects of localised violence in communities is clear. Locally led organisations, like our partners CfP, are vital in stopping the spread of violence and insecurity in vulnerable communities. They are instead championing peaceful, consensual approaches to resolving disputes, demonstrating to local people that violence is an unnecessary and destructive option for the future.