Feuding communities bury the hatchet and start afresh as friends following UNMISS mediation

unmiss south sudan juba terekeka intercommunal fighting displacement peace reconciliation resolutions

Voting for peaceful coexistence at an UNMISS-organized conflict resolution and reconciliation conference between previously hostile communities from Juba and Terekeka counties, respectively. Photos: James Sokiri/UNMISS

22 Mar 2023

Feuding communities bury the hatchet and start afresh as friends following UNMISS mediation

James Sokiri

CENTRAL EQUATORIA – By signing nine concrete resolutions agreed on at a recent peace and reconciliation conference, the two feuding communities of Yorkja and Jonkok-Papaya ended their acrimony to replace it with a culture of love, trust, and peaceful coexistence.

In early January, youth from Yorkja in the administrative area Tijor in Juba County attacked their Jonkok-Papaya counterparts in the administrative area Rejong in Terekeka County. This outburst of violence resulted in significant displacement of civilians, looting of cattle and the torching of at least 60 homes.

The two traumatized communities, eager to mend relations, asked the Civil Affairs Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to bring them together for a peace and reconciliation conference. Some 150 representatives showed up. A wise decision, as it turned out.

“We, the two communities involved, recognize the impact the conflict has had on breaking the social fabric of the Mundari people. It has further undermined access to shared resources, including water points, grazing areas, common markets and community playgrounds,” one self-evaluating resolution reads in part.

“We recognize that we share similar cultures, values, norms, and traditions, so we agree to use these similarities to build a culture of peace and encourage meaningful conversations,” says another passage of the reconciliation document.

Conference participants urged everyone involved in disagreements to refrain from violence and allow unrestricted access to both communities in a bid to foster social harmony.

Grace Poni, a Yorkja women’s representative, was over the already visible moon as she observed the reconciliation taking place right in front of her, with foes turning into fraternal friends.

“We must accept that we have wronged each other by choosing conflict instead of peace, but now the time has come for us to build peace together as a good legacy for our next generations to emulate,” she said.

The Head Chief of Tijor, Romano Ladu, advised members of both communities that nurturing the fledgling friendship will be essential to keep interactions smooth.

“The peaceful resolution of this conflict is living proof that we can sort our own problems,” Ladu said, reminding younger forum participants that the two communities have been intermarrying since time immemorial.

Victor Fasama, a Civil Affairs Officer serving with the UN peacekeeping mission, stressed the long-term rewards that durable peace tends to bring.

“If you decide in your hearts to resolve your differences through meaningful dialogues, you’ll achieve peace, and with peace in place, development can begin,” he said.