SOUTH SUDAN: A CELEBRATION OF PEACE
BLAZONED across the war ravaged city were dramatic peace posters in English and Arabic. Peace Now: Talk, Walk and practise peace.
This was one of the peace billboards in Juba, the capital of South Sudan when I was there last month. In 2012, when it became the world’s newest country it was full of promise.
But in 2013, civil war ignited. Liberation war allies against the Khartoum government, split. Fiery words caused orgies of violence to engulf the country.
South Sudan has the third largest oil reserves in Africa, with huge untapped mineral wealth, fertile lands and the Nile River which flows through it. But it is regarded as the worst war zone in Africa and the second most dangerous place on the planet after Syria, the 2016 Global Peace Index shows.
Yet in the midst of all this chaos and violence the seeds of peace were being laid. In September, I was in South Sudan when the new peace deal was signed. I was training 40 young leaders in peace and mediation, but nobody seemed excited. They said, “we don’t want our hearts broken again…”
They were all excited about a 2015 peace deal, but it collapsed. Last month, there was a different mood – a sense of tangible joy. An atmosphere of peace was being created.
Faith-based groups, civil society, the government and multiple stakeholder networks are supporting the principles of forgiveness. William Ongoro, a South Sudanese peace worker said that “this time the peace would hold”.
South Sudan is in the most hopeful stage of peace. But building peace amid the pain and trauma of the war, is not going to be easy.
Some non-state groups have not signed the peace accord. Despite ceasefire violations by the parties and small scale violence, investors are hopeful. South Africa plans to invest $1billion (R13.7bn), says South Sudanese Oil Minister Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth.
The first meeting between military rivals took place on Saturday attended by rebel commander Ashab Khamis and General Keer Kiir Keer. They publicly pledged to work for peace.
Signing a peace agreement is one thing but repairing shattered relationships requires resilience and strength. eal peace in their lifetimes: first a brutal war with the north and then within the south.
As one of the few international people working in an active civil war zone, I always knew peace would arrive; it was possible to build peace networks even during the civil war. Many international organisations are now returning to rebuild the country.
In Cape Town, the differentiated civil war on the Cape Flats is far from over. Non-state armed groups terrorise communities. New security initiatives are being implemented. But unless this is linked to a macro strategy that links all spheres of government and community stakeholders, the plan has limited prospects of sustainable success.
Williams is a Visiting Professor in Peace, Mediation, Reconciliation and Labour Relations: University of the Sacred Heart, Gulu – Uganda and chief executive: Williams Labour Law and Mediation