Community leaders from Ikotos, Eastern Equatoria, highlight need for dialogue and reconciliation

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Conflict between youth groups have escalated tensions in Ikotos county, Eastern Equatoria. Community members have requested a visiting UNMISS patrol team for reconciliation activities. Photo by Okello James/UNMISS.

18 Aug 2021

Community leaders from Ikotos, Eastern Equatoria, highlight need for dialogue and reconciliation

Okello James

Community leaders from Lodwara-Talla and Ikotos Central, Eastern Equatoria, have appealed to UNMISS and local authorities to initiate a sustained peace dialogue. The main aim: To ease tensions and reconcile feuding youth here.

“Currently, young people from our community cannot access Ikotos town,” reveals Lugina Inuha, a woman’s representative from Lodwara-Talla. “They are afraid of being attacked or killed because of a recent conflict with youth from Ikotos and neighboring villages.”

Two months ago, a group of young people from Ikotos went to meet their neighbors in Lodwara-Talla to resolve a protracted dispute on the killing of a local trader hailing from Ikotos along the Tsertenya-Uganda border road by suspects from Lodwara-Talla.

During talks, miscommunication between the two youth groups led to the deaths of four more people. The incident has heightened tensions and mistrust between the communities.

The ongoing conflict has slowed down the local economy and made life difficult for traders as they are afraid to travel to marketplaces to sell their wares.

“This uncomfortable situation between our communities needs to be resolved and we need to meet, talk and find a way to leave our differences behind,” averred Joseph Lohisa, a youth leader from Ikotos Central.

Agapito Lomotai, a local leader, agrees with Joseph. “We urgently need state authorities and UNMISS to begin an inclusive reconciliation process that will enable these two villages to coexist peacefully. The alternative is too hard to even contemplate. This senseless loss of life must stop,” he stated.

UNMISS peacekeepers and humanitarian representatives visited the villages to engage with communities and sensitize them on the importance of resolving disputes peacefully.

“We take your concerns very seriously and are here to assure you that we will do our best to help you reconcile. However, the primary push for peace must come from all of you. UNMISS and humanitarian partners will support you every step of the way,” said Hercules Ayahu, a Civil Affairs Officer with the peacekeeping mission.

Local authorities revealed to visiting peacekeepers that cattle raids, ambushes and related violence has reduced following greater presence of law enforcement and intensified security patrols in the area.

“Insecurity has reduced these days. However, this relative peace has been disrupted by ongoing youth conflicts and we need to resolve outstanding issues immediately so that all communities can reap the dividends of stability, said Samuel Joseph, Executive Director, Ikotos county.