A civil-military dialogue in Torit restores hope for unity and social cohesion
A civil-military dialogue in Torit has concluded with renewed hope for unity and social cohesion.
Following the dialogue, parties reached resolutions that were signed into by-laws by representatives of civilians, South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), organized forces, the Torit Inter-Religious Council, and women’s representative.
Participants at the dialogue resolved that concerned authorities initiate trainings for military officers to meet acceptable international standards so that they perform their professional duties to protect the citizens and their property.
They also agreed that the resolutions would be the guiding principles for relevant authorities to disarm civilians in possession of illegal fire arms that have contributed to criminal activities within the communities and in the cattle camps, fueling revenge killings.
Angelina Benardo Jacob, a women’s representative used the forum as platform to urge forgiveness.
“I have forgiven all the soldiers and especially those who have done wrong things; let us now be united and build this country together,” she said.
Orra Zacharia Tartisio, a community leader in Torit, advised the SSDPF not to interfere with rule of law processes, saying civilian issues would be addressed by the police and other rule of law agencies.
“The military has to do their work, but they’re not to interfere with the work of organized civilian forces, especially the police. Civilian cases have to be taken to the police, not to the military barracks,” counselled Orra Tartisio.
The forum identified a number of issues that need to be addressed by concerned authorities in order to reinforce the relationship between the military and civilians.
Major General Robert Okimo, SSPDF Chief Administrator and Torit area commander was keen to outline a pathway to building a strong nation of South Sudan.
“We must view ourselves as South Sudanese. We must accept our diversities; we must forgive each other and reconcile,” he said, invoking the revitalized peace agreement signed more than four months ago. “Our leaders have signed the revitalised agreement, so let us implement and continue to seek peace.”
Organised by the Torit Inter-Religious Council, with support from the Civil Affairs Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the one-day forum was aimed at building trust and confidence between the military and civilians in a move to foster peaceful coexistence.
The forum was a follow-up to a similar meeting held in June 2017.
Reverend Asist Otulo, Acting Chairperson of the Inter-Religious Council, echoed messages of forgiveness to the participants, asking them embrace one another for peaceful coexistence. He stressed the need to heal the wounds triggered by war in the hearts of the citizens.
“If your brother who wronged you decided to come back and said, ‘sorry general, I have done wrong against you I need forgiveness,’ you also need to forgive that person and God will forgive and give you mercy,” he said
A member of the Civil Society Network in Eastern Equatoria region, Loboi John, is optimistic that both civilians and the military have a role to play in the development of their country.
“There is no way that military person can work without a civilian, and there is no way that a civilian can work without the military,” he said. “All of us have to work together and create a conducive environment to take this country forward and to have divine love for the country,” stressed Mr. Loboi.
The resolution signing ceremony was witnessed by the Acting Governor of Torit, Okidi-Moi Ogura and UNMISS Head of Field Office, Caroline Waudo. Participants joined hands in prayer shortly after, symbolizing a positive step towards improved civil-military relations.