Kuei join Rup and Pakam in truce to end years of intra-ethnic violence
A celebration horn was sounded as the Kuei community joined neighbouring Rup and Pakam communities in signing a truce to end over five years of intra-ethnic communal attacks in Greater Lakes.
This came as a result of a two-day peace dialogue that was spearheaded by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) together with partners, Oxfam and African Mission Assistance (AMA).
The event, which took place at Among-Piny county headquarters, focused on ending years of deadly cattle raids, revenge attacks, kidnaps and rapes among the three predominantly Dinka communities that occupy the Western part of the Lakes area.
“My heart is always throbbing and I’m always praying to God that I don’t fall in an ambush of armed youth,” said Nyatoch from the Rup community in Among-Piny, expressing the greatest fear she and other women face while tending to their gardens.
“This must stop now that we have this peace dialogue. This peace should hold,” said the mother of five.
UNMISS’s Civil Affairs Officer Tunji Namaiko, who headed the delegation, emphasized the importance of involving the Kuei community in the dialogue between Rup and Pakam who had already signed an agreement for peaceful co-existence in December last year.
“The Kuei are a very important party to this conflict, said Namaiko. “Since they were not involved in the initial stages of the peace process, it was very important that at this moment we bring all the three stakeholders to ensure that this process is very inclusive and more sustainable,” concluded the UN official.
Sitting under a tamarind fruit tree in the compound of the county headquarters, in a seemingly casual conversation, one could not easily tell the magnitude of the issues being discussed. Yet, youth leaders, women representatives, local authorities, chiefs and other cultural leaders were determined to end a spate of intra-communal violence that has seen hundreds lose lives.
14-year-old Deng from the Kuei community also hopes that this peace dialogue will end his worries as a young herdsman.
“Sometimes we are kidnapped; your father’s cattle are stolen and sometimes they kill us. Now that the big people are talking, they should think about our safety,” he said.
At the very core of this dialogue was the issue of providing safe passage to the Pakam who had evaded Western Lakes areas for fear of a possible revenge attack.
Mawut Manuel, the commissioner of Among-Piny county re-assured the returnee Pakam people of safe passage.
“It has been agreed that the Pakam who had fled to Eastern Lakes region return to Western Lakes region within two weeks because we have resolved all the issues that forced them to leave,” he said.
The youth who are always at the centre of planning and executing these attacks pledged to turn into peace-builders as they go back to their areas of origin.
“We have wasted a lot of our time in this fighting, and this is the time for it to end it,” said Marial Tur from the Rup community.
His counterpart, Sadi from the Kuei community, also carries the same message to the youth under his leadership.
“We are appealing to the government to work together with us to ensure that the resolutions made here are implemented,” he said.
To re-echo their commitment to this process, youth leaders sounded a stern warning to those they lead.
“I have attended nine peace conferences but the one of today should be the very last. Whoever plays around with our peace this time round should be handed over to government and dealt with,” stressed Matur Marial, a Pakam youth leader.
UNMISS and partners are also optimistic that agreement will hold.
“We are very hopeful that this dialogue will hold. There was a strong government will and support in this process and the community also showed a lot more commitment than before,” said Tunji Namaiko.