Commissioners' Forum in Warrap wraps up, acknowledges that challenges in managing conflict remain
WARRAP - Tensions between communities and among bordering states continue across Warrap, South Sudan.
Despite the signing of a peace accord by County Commissioners and community leaders from Tonj East and North in early October, on-the-ground conflicts appear unabated. In this context, upcoming seasonal cattle migration is expected to exacerbate hostilities.
To address these issues, the Civil Affairs Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), arranged a two-day workshop for commissioners, community leaders, youth and women representatives from six counties in Warrap. Some 85 participants attended the workshop.
The workshop's objectives: To map and manage cross-cutting issues that impact communities as a whole and build effective early reaction mechanisms.
John Deng Kok, County Commissioner for Tonj East, emphasized that unresolved conflicts could be traced to armed civilians and a lack disarmament initiatives, which not only fuel intercommunal violence but also exacerbate inter-state rivalries between Lakes and Unity states.
"The absence of strong rule of law structures and access to justice is also another issue," added Mauut Mayen, a cattle camp leader. "Perpetrators of revenge attacks, criminality and theft are not convicted since there is no functional legal system to address such offenses. Innocent people, therefore, are caught in a vicious cycle of violence and insecurity."
Participants were happy with the workshop's interactive nature and its focus on finding solutions to looming problems ahead of time.
Elizabeth Awal, a women’s representative from Gogrial West, bore testimony to this. “The forum has helped me understand conflict triggers not only in my own county but also in the broader context of the whole state. Conflict is different in each state but what we learned here helps us understand the situation that everbody is facing across state lines. It is helpful because it enables us to think outside the box and assist each another in finding peaceful solutions,” she stated.
For his part, Edwin N. Njonguo, a Civil Affairs Officer with UNMISS, emphasized that early response mechanisms are crucial for avoiding and managing disagreements. “We encourage you to collaborate with your neighbouring communities when you see irregular movements and mobilization so that preventative steps can be taken at early stages. This, ultimately, will help save lives.”
Participants did, however, raise concerns related to building early reaction systems, as misinformation could result in rumors and hate speech on social media. Additionally, community members underlined how lack of any communications infrastructure in remote locations could be a huge stumbling block to sending out speedy early warrnings.
Riing Deng Ading, the state Minister of Information and Communication, assured the gathering that the state administration has already planned to establish communication networks in distant areas to address this particular challenge.