On 22nd-24th July 2018, UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion (PaCC) project, in partnership with Jonglei State government and Upper Nile Youth for Mobilization for Peace and Development Agency (UNYMPDA) conducted a three-day community mediation conference in Panyagor to resolve contentious issues that led to clashes, loss of lives and destruction of property in the Riic community.
The mediation conference provided a concrete example of the role grassroots peace committees and engaged local communities can have in resolving local disputes.
The disagreement between the communities arose from the division of Duk Padiet County into two (Duk Padiet and Duk Pagak). A section of the community contested the creation of the new county since they felt that it divided their community and requested the decision to be rescinded. Another section of the community was happy with this division. In their opinion, “government services were brought closer to the people.” These two opposing groups eventually clashed in March 2018, leading to the loss of three lives and destruction of property.
The mediation conference was attended by 60 participants from Duk Pagak Community in Panyagor, Kongor County, Jonglei State. The dialogue was mediated by Twic North Peace Committee, led by Paramount Chief Duot Ajang Duot.
The peace committees are one of the grassroots peace structures that UNDP supports to promote local and traditional conflict prevention and management. In May 2018, the Twic North Peace Committee members participated in a 10-day transformational leadership, peace and conflict management training from UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion project.
During the opening session of the recent community mediation conference, the chairperson of Twic Peace Committee and the lead mediator, Chief Duot Ajang Duot, expressed his gratitude to UNDP for the opportunity given to bring together people of Duk Pagak to dialogue and find amicable solution to the problems of Duk.
“We, the mediators are not here to judge you, instead we are going to advise you to remain calm until the real peace comes to your place. We want to listen to both voices and guide you to have self-reflection on how to come to common ground by putting the interest of the people you are leading first. Look back at the faces of the women, children and elderly people who are terrified by acts of violence, put yourself in their shoes as a leader and make the decision. Make sure every decision you make positively affects the people you lead directly,” Chief Duot advised.
In addition to Chief Duot, the community mediation conference was attended by several leaders, including Jonglei State Governor’s Advisor on Peace Hon. Peter Deng Aguer, Jonglei State Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agency Hon. Deng Acuek Lual, the state chairperson of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission Hon. David Anyang Nyuon.
Nyaruach Kong, a participant of the dialogue in support of the new county, used the conference as space to advocate to others to see their point of view by sharing: “The creation of Duk Pagak county has already created harmony amongst Dinka of Duk particularly Riec community, Nuer Gawaar and Lou Nuer. Some people of Lou Nuer who are far from services available in their counties, and who are living along the border, are now benefiting from the newly created county. It creates more interdependency between Nuer and Dinka, thereby creating safe border protection and peaceful coexistence amongst three states of Jonglei, Bieh and Fangak.”
The three-day community meeting ended with a five-point resolution:
- Peace is a priority and must prevail in Duk Pagak and greater Duk, thus disagreement shall be resolved through peaceful means to avoid the past mistake that led to the loss of lives and properties;
- Duk Pagak County shall remain operational until its final status is determined in a general conference that shall be convened in Pagak during dry season;
- The upcoming peace dialogue to resolve Duk Pagak shall include observers from other counties of Jonglei state in the mediation process;
- Hon Chol Puoc was tasked to engage Chief Makuei Mabeny to maintain peace and harmony until the final status of the county is resolved through an inclusive and participatory community conference to be convened in Pagak;
- The state government is urged to consolidate its presence in the county to uphold the rule of law and order and to provide necessary services needed by the local communities.
The Twic Peace Committee members who were brought in to facilitate the Duk Pagak dialogue were able to put into practice their newly acquired mediation skills. They enabled the two parties to compromise and reach an agreement. Their participation follows sustained PaCC-supported peace initiatives in the region. In May 2017, chiefs of Duk Padiet, Ayod South and Ayod Central convened a community dialogue addressing local conflict. In March 2018, over 100 youth from Gawaar, Lou, Hol and Nyarweng communities gathered in Duk Padiet and agreed on resolutions to discourage cattle thefts and ambushes, share pastures and water points, and create a Joint Peace Committee.
The community mediation conference is one positive step towards restoring peace and strengthening local cohesion, as a result of capacity building of peace committees and support to community-led processes. These mechanisms can build a pathway to providing solutions across conflict hot-spot areas in South Sudan.