A new peace committee in Kolnyang Payam (Bor County, Jonglei State) is attempting to address recurrent conflict in one of the most polarized payams in South Sudan.
“In our payam, we have differences which the community leadership and the state government attempted to resolve but failed due to competing interests of external actors. It is our hope that this peace committee shall be the forum to discuss and fully resolve our differences,” said Sultan Makuach.
A combination of displacement and restriction of movement in the payam has resulted in communities who once called themselves brothers now regarding each other as fierce rivals. In 2017, an interclan a land dispute between Nyichak and Nyara resulted in over 40 deaths. In 2018, clashes erupted over a village renaming, and 15 lives were lost.
Conflict in the state has caused mass displacement of people from their ancestral villages bordering Greater Pibor Administrative Area towards the Nile River, increasing competition over land between the fishermen (Thany) and pastoralists. And while Kolnyang area is one of the few unaffected by recent flooding in Jonglei State, displaced communities from submerged areas have found temporary refuge in the payam, adding yet another layer of complexity.
To boost reconciliation and healing, UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion project has supported the formation of the Kolnyang peace committee, comprised of local leaders, chiefs, youth, women leaders, religious groups and local administrators from rival clans. In September, the peace committee members participated in a 10-day transformational leadership and conflict resolution training provided by the National Transformational Leadership Institute (NTLI). This is part of UNDP’s peacebuilding work which focuses on the interconnectedness of conflict actors, causes and issues.
Concerning the influx of displaced persons, local chiefs and members of the peace committee used the training to express their concern over emergent competition over resources, and formulate a solution.
“Our brothers from Athoc who are displaced by the flood are here with us and they are going to be here for a while…To avoid conflict that may arise due to overcrowding and sharing of limited resources, we will show them land that they can settle in,” said Chol Makuei, a local administrator.
The lack of appropriate early response mechanisms from state authorities, coupled with poor infrastructure and limited resources has hindered communal dialogue and mediation during these emergencies.
“Peace is a commodity we have been longing for and this training has answered our prayers, for we are now enlightened on how to handle our differences in a nonviolent way,” said Nyang Deng, a women representative of the peace committee.
Now equipped with skills to apply traditional dispute resolution, the peace committee is determined to facilitate peaceful coexistence within Kolnyang Payam.