More than 60 people, including army officers, ex-combatants, and traditional chiefs in the state, recently gathered in Kuajok to discuss ways of decreasing community violence.
Participants in the workshop, which was organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), identified locations particularly prone to conflicts, the factors that most often cause disagreements, and how to use gender-responsive methods to tackle root causes. Disarming civilians, they all agreed, would be helpful to promote peaceful coexistence.
“It is about safeguarding our people. We can no longer accept having illegal weapons circulating in our communities, particularly not among our youth,” affirmed Deng Akech, an army officer since 1993.
Adut Majok, an ex-combatant woman, believed that a change of mindset is needed.
“To hand in a gun is not a loss; it is embracing peace and giving people a chance to heal,” she said.
The importance of finding local solutions to resolve conflicts within or between communities was also recognized and discussed.
“As traditional chiefs, we must assume the responsibility to address grievances if and when the government justice system falls short,” said Deng Wek, the current leader of traditional chiefs in Warrap State.
Women invited to the workshop pointed out that their voices and suffering are often ignored in traditionally male-dominated societies like South Sudan, a practice that has a negative impact on communal and inter-communal harmony.
“As women, we pay a high price whenever there is fighting or other social unrest. To build and maintain friendly relations within and between communities, women must be allowed to play an active part in any activity that matters to them,” demanded Achol Gau.
Peace, it would seem, remains a collective responsibility both at the local and national level.
“UNMISS is here to support you in any way we can on your journey, but only you, the South Sudanese people, can achieve true and sustainable peace in your country,” concluded Ajok Angok, a Civil Affairs Officer serving with the peacekeeping mission.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).