South Sudanese civil society organizations make a difference in their communitiesMay 31, 2016
“We asked our neighbors from the cattle keeping and the local community in Maridi County: What are the things that bring you all together and the ones that divide you? They agreed they live together peacefully for most aspects of their daily life. They share the water points, the markets, the schools, the church, the social gatherings… the only thing that divided the community were the cattle. After the dialogue session, people agreed to move the cattle, there are no more cattle coming inside the town”.
Tamas Justin Bago works for the local organization FACE, Facility Action for Community Empowerment. FACE received a small grant from UNDP’s Community Security and Small Arms Control (CSAC) project to implement a three month pilot project that could transform communities engaged in conflict through peacebuilding activities and raise citizen awareness and participation in social, economic and political decision-making processes.
“People coexist socially in the street and in the school, but they are afraid of speaking up openly. With UNDP support we have discussed with the community about the importance of the peace agreement. We have explained them why children should go to the school and why youth and community leaders need to engage in a long term peace dialogue to create a culture of peace,” explained Bago.
FACE conducted workshops to inform communities about the peace agreement, organized peace dialogue meetings and engaged community members in radio talk shows.
“During one of the peace dialogue meetings a women leader from Maridi County who was displaced due to inter-tribal clashes shared openly that she never expected to be able to share meals and shake hands again with those she hated. She suggested to conduct more peace dialogues to involve more people and especially the youth,” said Bago.
“We don’t want to see youth moving around with their weapons. We want our area free of guns, there should be better things for young people to do than engaging in conflict”, said James Labadia, representative of the local organization MAYA, Mundri Active Youth Association.
Through UNDP CSAC’s small grant, MAYA was able to implement a peace project in Mundri West, Mundri East and Mvolo. The project engaged the communities in a cultural gala, music and drama performances, and youth dialogues.
The youth dialogues conducted on the peace processes and peaceful coexistence in the community led to the improvement of the relationship between youth and elders.
“The conflict has divided the people along age groups. The elders and youth look at each other with suspicion. The different perspectives were discussed during a dialogue meeting in the presence of local government officials to restore trust between the youths and the community leaders”, declared James.
Seven cultural galas were conducted in different payams, bringing together more than 3,300 participants under the theme “war is destructive, let South Sudan resurrect with peace”.
“All were dancing and singing traditional music to emphasize the need to work together for a peaceful society. The Governor, Hon. Seven Juma, lauded MAYA for choosing Kediba for such important activity and UNDP for availing funds to MAYA. He referred to traditional songs and dances as good tools to disseminate peace messages and he recommended to prioritize the construction of a cultural center in the town,” explained James.
With Swedish funding, UNDP CSAC was able to provide small grants and technical support to 15 civil society organizations in the Greater Upper Nile and Greater Equatoria Regions. The grants enabled the CSOs to engage in local peace and reconciliation activities. A second round of small grants was launched in 2016. Sweden’s development contributions in South Sudan aim at enhancing civil society capacity to promote increased respect for human rights and reconciliation, and thereby contribute to stronger democracy.