Despite the signing of a peace deal in 2018, intercommunal violence—a legacy of past civil wars—continues to shadow people’s lives across the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.
This holds especially true for communities in Hiyala payam [administrative division] of Eastern Equatoria state’s Torit county.
Several bomas [administrative divisions] within Hiyala, particularly, Haforere, Tirangore, Mura, Iloli, Ilieu, Tirangore, Mura, Iloli, Loguruny, Calamini, and Lolianga, have long been the epicentre of cattle rustling, road ambushes and fights over grazing land and fishing waters.
Most affected were young people—who got embroiled in retaliatory attacks—women, and children.
But in a positive step, long-suffering residents have agreed to build peace and foster harmonious coexistence among different ethnic groups living in the area.
They reiterated this commitment during a cultural event hosted jointly by the state Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sport and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), through its Civil Affairs Division.
Hosted in the payam headquarters, the occasion celebrated the completion of six months of stability following several dialogues initiated by peace partners and authorities.
“We have had a lot of insecurity in the past. Women were unable to walk to their farms or fetch water and firewood due to frequent revenge attacks. But today, thanks to the spirit of compromise shown by all neighbouring communities, we are beginning to enjoy the fruits of peace. I hope we continue to stay united in future,” said Aida Hudule, a women’s leader from Hiyala.
Albino Kaya Victor, a youth leader, agreed.
“Today community representatives from different villages gathered here to celebrate the long-awaited accord. Everyone wants to lead quiet, productive lives and I am happy to say that youth have fully adhered to the government’s call for calm,” he stated.
In the past, partners and state authorities engaged with community members, youth, and cattle camp leaders through sport events, cultural performances and discussion-based fora to galvanize a culture of peace.
These efforts seem to have finally gained some traction.
“Let us remember the years of mistrust, dispute, tensions and uncertainty, to truly value today’s breakthrough,” averred Guy Griffin, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in the state.
For its part, the state government, too, is doing all it can to restore calm in hotspots such as Ikotos and Hiyala, especially through the recently formed Justice and Peace Mission which consists of organized forces who have been deployed to these locations.
“The people of Hiyala and Ikotos have suffered loss of lives and destruction of properties. International and national humanitarian friends and partners could not travel here earlier to support the most vulnerable. Today, I am heartened to see people moving freely,” said state Governor, Louis Lobong Lojore.
While Hiyala communities still require livelihood opportunities and basic services, the concept of durable peace seems to have found a home with them.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).