Supporting South Sudanese in peace-building and reconciliation
by Faith Kasina
“My house is just behind this compound but I’m too afraid to go back. I’ll only leave when it’s safe.”
This is 25 year old Salome Amira’s reality, forced to leave behind a stable life and thriving business for an IDP camp outside South Sudan’s capital, Juba.
A million more South Sudanese like her now live in similar camps within the country and beyond, resulting from political feuds which quickly begot tribal violence and war, mid last December.
However, Salome remembers a different South Sudan not too long ago.
“We all lived peacefully, coming from different tribes and parts of South Sudan and supporting different leaders,” Salome reminisces. “It seems we have forgotten that. Now, my own neighbours can’t accept my family and me because of the language we speak.”
For many South Sudanese, gaining independence from Sudan in 2011 was a symbol of renewed hope of a fresh start after years of conflict and war.
The present crisis has, conversely, opened up old wounds.
“Sadness, distress and pain is the exact feeling of every South Sudanese today,” reiterates Isaac Kenyi from the Justice and Peace Commission that Trócaire supports in the country’s peace and reconciliation process. “We never expected brothers- who have stood together all this time and through the many struggles- to turn the gun against each other. It has taken us back to where we were many years ago.”
The Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) is the technical wing of the South Sudanese Catholic Church, representing the church in the country’s ongoing peace talks in Ethiopia.
With a core advisory mandate to the talks, the JPC ensures that the position of the church-as that of the voice of South Sudanese- advocates for an end to the crisis through inclusive discussion and reconciliation is adapted in the process.
Through local parishes, theatre performances and radio programmes, the JPC communicates with local communities on the progress of the peace talks, whilst advocating for peaceful co-existence at local level.
“Our core mandate is to be the voice of that man, woman and child, displaced from their home because of the fighting, because conflict has affected all of us,”says Jim Long John, also with the JPC delegation to the talks. “But we all have an obligation to bring peace; it’s not enough to have only the warring parties searching for a solution. All South Sudanese have to be involved in their own way.”
Trōcaire partners with the commission with a view to linking local communities to the ongoing peace talks, thereby fostering a sense of ownership and participation in the process.
“It is important to remember that the peace agreement will be for all South Sudanese people regardless of their tribe, tongue or geographical location. Community dialogue within the peace talks will provide a good roadmap from which the long journey of peace building and national reconciliation will begin,” reiterates Edward Santiago, Trōcaire’s Country Representative in South Sudan.
It may seem like a long walk to freedom but Salome remains hopeful.
“It will take a long time for things to go back to normal but I’m sure the peace we are all praying for will be found.”
Trōcaire works with community-based and national partners to implement governance, peace building and reconciliation and livelihood programmes in South Sudan.