SOUTH SU­DAN: A CEL­E­BRA­TION OF PEACE

Daily News - - OPINION - BRIAN WIL­LIAMS

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

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