Following a cycle of conflict, UNMISS reviews dividends from local peace initiatives in Ulang

Following consistent conflict in 2020, which led to the deaths of 40 community members in a day, the people of remote Ulang county, Upper Nile, South Sudan, have taken on the onus of building sustainable peace and reconciliation from the grassroots. Photo by Nyang Touch/UNMISS.

14 Mar 2022

Following a cycle of conflict, UNMISS reviews dividends from local peace initiatives in Ulang

Nyang Touch

UPPER NILE - “There is nothing to be gained from conflict and I, therefore, decided to be part of a solution that brings peace,” says Nyayual Nyach.

Nyayual is one of the delegates on a panel tasked with reviewing a local peace initiative in this remote county in the Upper Nile state of South Sudan.

“I have lost two of my sons to violence and am intimately familiar with how the fabric of a family is destroyed by such constant clashes,” she continues. “We lost 40 members of our community in a single day. That’s when we all decided that this endless cycle of attacks and counter-attacks must stop.”

The incident that Nyayual recounts above occurred in early 2020 and sent shockwaves among communities living in the eight payams [administrative divisions] across the county.

More importantly, it resulted in community members themselves taking the lead to reduce tensions and foster a spirit of reconciliation among feuding groups.

The first-ever local peace initiative here concluded with firm recommendations on 23 November 2021. These included an immediate cessation of hostilities between communities, freedom of movement for people, including humanitarian workers, as well as compensation for the families of the deceased.

An integrated team from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) recently went to Ulang with a single purpose: To observe a follow-up peace initiative facilitated by the Touch African Development Organization (TADO), a national peacebuilding entity, jointly with county authorities and the UN Peacekeeping mission.

Community members were eloquent in expressing their commitment to such ongoing peace and reconciliation dialogues.

“The roots of intercommunal violence exist within us as communities. Therefore, we must keep up the momentum and spread the message of peace as far as possible to ensure that the events of 2020 are never repeated,” says Wakuo Chuol, a traditional leader and local peace broker.  

Progress has also been made in actioning key recommendations suggested in November 2021. 

A coalition of traditional leaders, youth and women’s representatives as well as faith-based leaders stand in readiness to step in and resolve any disputes amicably, while mobilization of resources to compensate bereaved communities is ongoing.

As the two-day activity concluded, Jimmy Okumu, a Civil Affairs Officer from UNMISS, commended the people and authorities of Ulang for their unceasing efforts to keep the peace within the county.

“We are heartened by the firm commitment to sustainable peace demonstrated by every individual in Ulang,” stated Mr. Okumu. “Dialogue is a powerful tool in managing and mitigating conflict and is also the lynchpin of your valuable efforts to promote peaceful coexistence here. What you have achieved in the past year stands as a shining example for communities across South Sudan to emulate and you can count on continued support from UNMISS.”

In upcoming weeks, the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Civil Affairs Division intends to bolster another peace initiative in Doma, Upper Nile, which is facing similar challenges.