In Greater Tonj, South Sudan, communities have traditionally been caught in unceasing conflict cycles, that has led to untold suffering for tens of thousands.
Recently, thanks to an innovative community stabilization and violence reduction project funded by the South Sudan Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Reconciliation, Stabilization, and Resilience (RSRTF), hope for a more peaceful, prosperous future has resurfaced.
This project—called ‘Kong Koc’, which means ‘to wait’ in a local dialect—has recently entered its second phase of implementation, following 15 community dialogues that marked the conclusion of Phase One in May this year.
The project’s philosophy is simple: Peace does not imply the absence of conflict. Instead, it is the ability to resolve disputes without violence.
Keeping this in focus, the RSRTF has supported a dialogue to prevent further deterioration of the violence between Pagol and Kirik, two Tonj North communities, where frequent cattle raids had led to loss of life and property.
Aiming to help two communities let go of grievances and air their concerns to consortium partners of the project, this dialogue-based forum brought together some 200 participants, including women, youth, local leaders as well as representatives from the state government.
“I learned a lot during the consultations conducted by Kong Koc partners,” said Bit Mabior Wol, a community leader from Pagol.
“As members of our respective communities and as individuals, we must take ownership of the push for lasting peace. We don’t want to live through endless cycles of attacks and counter attacks anymore. We want to build neighbourly relations. After all, peace begins at the grassroots,” he added.
Alic Deng, a cattle camp leader from Kirik agreed, appreciating the restraint demonstrated by Pagol communities in past months.
“We are heartened by their patience in this process and the way they have embraced the path of peace. As we’ve discovered in our deliberations, recent cattle-related incidents aren’t reflective of the entire Kirik community. Rather, they have been acts of criminality and hostility by single individuals. We are ready to take our share of the responsibility and compensate our Pagol sisters and brothers, but we also urge the authorities to take the lead in bringing these perpetrators to justice,” he stated passionately.
For their part, United Nations Police (UNPOL) officers serving with the UN Peacekeeping mission, UNMISS, explained the role of community policing in monitoring crime and improving safety at this event.
“Everyone in the community must be responsible for improving security. Women, youth, elders, traders, everybody needs to monitor suspicious actions or strangers in your areas and report them to authorities. Through such vigilant actions, we will create an effective community-led mechanism for crime prevention and security,” Tonderayi Kunyetu, an UNPOL officer, emphasized.
A key, community-led development from the two-day dialogue—Cattle Camp Crime Monitor Committees have been established by nine communities in Tonj North. These committees will be supported with transportation and communication tools for information sharing and crime reporting.
“I think these committees will be a useful tool in tracking cattle movement and any potential for violence. But we hope partners will give us more training on streamlining our crime prevention abilities,” Kon Ayii Kon, a Committee member, averred.
Consortium partners for this two-year multisectoral project funded by RSRTF in Warrap include UNMISS, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP), The Organization for Children Harmony (TOCH), The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), and Peace Canal.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).