Peace begins with drums: The case of conflict resolution between Omoruo and Lohilai residents
EASTERN EQUATORIA – Music lovers will know that star drummers, and drumming in general, tend to divide opinions and, in some cultures, become symbols of teenage love, longing and angst.
It is, however, less known that peace, in some cases, may very well begin with drums.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, is currently supporting a community-led initiative to restore harmonious relations between the two villages of Omoruo and Lohilai, with percussions hoped to play a key role.
In December last year, members of the two communities, who used to coexist without frictions, were rocked by outbursts of violence as a result of both sides accusing each other of targeted killings and road ambushes.
In a particularly memorable - for all the wrong reasons – attack, no less than 23 exquisitely handmade wooden drums belonging to Omoruo musicians were burnt to ashes.
Now, following joint efforts to mend relations, the tide seems to have turned, in part thanks to a music-producing peace offering made by the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Civil Affairs Division.
“We are experiencing real peace between our villages again, with women and men travelling to both areas without any problems or security issues. Last week they invited us for a traditional ceremony in Lohilai. This shows that we have finally achieved reconciliation,” said Ikeye Ihiju, a women’s representative living in Omoruo.
During a recent peace dialogue facilitated by civil society organizations, the church, local authorities and other influencers, it was agreed that damages caused during the conflict should be compensated, drums included. UNMISS peacekeepers resolved to step in, by making a first installment.
“We have handed over eleven drums to the Omorou village, with the rest to be delivered once we see those imaginary white flags of peace flap permanently in the wind. More peace, more music, you could say,” explained Civil Affairs Officer Hercules Ayahu Abalu, serving with UNMISS.
So far, so good, according to Osman Anthony, a Lohilai community representative.
“We have returned to our usual state of peaceful relations. What happened between us is history; now we need to focus on rebuilding and develop our area,” he said.
An indication of prevailing goodwill between the two villages is the fact that some 1,500 people, mostly women and children, who once fled intense violence, have returned to their homes.