Mingkaman, 7 August 2019—Local communities and authorities of Eastern Lakes and Jonglei states concluded an inter-communal dialogue, convened with support from UNDP, to resolve conflict between two communities of Jonglei State that disrupted Nile transportation and business. The dispute negatively affected the upstream states (Fangak, Central Upper Nile, South Liech and Northern Liech) who rely on the Nile River for supply of essentials goods and movement of people.
The three day (5-7 August 2019) inter-communal dialogue (Mingkaman dialogue) brought together over 160 members of the communities representing the governors of the two states, county government authorities, chiefs, religious actors, state-level representatives of Peace and Reconciliation Commission (SSPRC), ministers, members of parliament, local peace committee members, youth representatives, and traders who operate along the Sudd swamp. Women were included in the dialogue and two were signatories to the resolutions.
“Lasting peace and mutual inter-relationship between our people will not come through conflict but with efforts of dialogue, reconciliation and forgiveness among our people,” said Hon. Lt. Gen. Mangar Buong Aluenge, Governor of Eastern Lakes State, while speaking during the opening of the dialogue.
The Sudd – the world’s largest wetland region located along White Nile River, divides Eastern Lakes and Jonglei states, to the east and west respectively. Throughout the Sudd, there are islands that have been inhabited by fishing communities. The struggle for ownership of the small islands triggered inter-communal conflict which turned violent between the communities of Ajuong/Abiong and Ador, resulting two people killed and 10 injured.
The delegates of the Mingkaman dialogue discussed the root causes and drivers of the conflict as well as possible solutions for ensuring peaceful co-existence among the communities.
“We, the people of Jonglei and Eastern Lakes are one people, even though the Sudd swamp becomes a physical barrier that divides us. We overcame this divide through building bridges of inter-marriages that bind us together. As one people, we will always have differences. How to manage the difference is the most important aspect. Through this dialogue, I hope our communities shall learn to use nonviolent means of resolving future difference so that our unity and social cohesion is not threatened,” said Hon. Ustaz Maker Thiong Maal, Governor of Jonglei State, during the dialogue.
Resolutions of the dialogue included an agreement to form a state-level high committee to act as an early warning and response team; establishment of a joint border police post to monitor the security of the border areas; agreement to re-authorize free movement of goods and services on the Nile River; reduction of check points; registration of commercial speed/motor boats; establishment of joint border courts; controlling the proliferation of small arms; regular forum for commissioners from areas that share borders; and trust-building activities amongst others.
At the end of the dialogue, the local chiefs emphasized the need for both Governors to collaborate on implementation of the resolutions.
“We need both state governments to cooperate in disseminating information so that we at the local level can act and save lives. We have learnt through this conflict, although through a painful way. I hope, after this dialogue there shall be sustainable peace,” said Aweng Deng Chol, Paramount Chief of Ajuong.
“We are thankful to UNDP for bringing the two communities together to find a common ground and resolve conflict that have derailed our relationship. We, the mothers who bear children who are killed in senseless conflict, feel the pain. We are always delightful for forums that promote peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution through nonviolent means. Please men, allow this peace hold,’ said one of the hosting local chiefs, Ms. Amuou Bol Bul.
The representatives of the two states also called for support from UNDP and other peace actors to continue facilitating peace conferences among the two communities, including trust-building initiatives for sustained peace.
Support to inter-communal dialogues is part of the UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion (PaCC) project which seeks to contribute to the reduction and mitigation of community level conflict and insecurity as well as strengthen community relationships. These dialogues and other initiatives for sustainable peace are supported by the Government of Sweden.