UNMISS meets Buya and Toposa communities to prepare peace dialogue to end persistent conflict
“We have lost too many women and children in this new bout of violence. Enough is enough,” says Magdalena, the agonized chief of the village of Lokosowan in Kapoeta North County, Eastern Equatoria State.
She is talking about recent lethal clashes between the Buya community in Budi County and the Toposa people in Kapoeta North County. The violence has prompted a team of UN peacekeepers to meet representatives from the two groups to agree on the organization of a suggested two-day peace forum.
“The dialogue we are proposing will also assess previous resolutions that are yet to be implemented,” says Mark Miljevic, a Civil Affairs Officer serving with the peacekeeping mission, referring to the fact that these communities have made several previous attempts, supported by the Mission and other peace partners, to sort out their differences amicably.
Like in many other cases of persistent intercommunal violence in South Sudan, this conflict revolves around a vicious and seemingly endless circle of cattle raiding, revenge killings and road ambushes. From time to time, resolutions are agreed on, but some are not implemented, or are being abided by for a short time only.
“The state government [of a state that became defunct when South Sudan reverted from 30+ states to ten] was dissolved and criminals returned to their activities because there was no one to follow up on the implementation of the resolutions,” explains Emmanuel Lolimoe, County Commissioner of Kapoeta North County.
“Now, the [new] state government and the community here will re-open the road that connects Riwoto to Napak in Budi, so that community members can move freely,” he adds, hoping that improved infrastructure may help improve relations.
Two years ago, Napak was the venue for a peace dialogue between the two feuding communities, supported by the peacekeeping mission’s Civil Affairs Division. At that gathering, the parties agreed, among other things, to stop killings targeting women and children and that the government should apprehend identified criminals and hold them accountable.
The power of the guns carried by cattle herders and other civilians has, however, proved too hard to resist, and violent incidents have continued to occur.
“For peaceful relations to prevail, there are two things that have to happen: the proliferation of firearms and ammunitions must be stopped and the killing of chiefs who report criminals cannot continue,” affirms Aurelio Loluk, head of chiefs in Kapoeta North County.
Exactly how that will happen remains to be discussed by representatives from the two communities when they are expected to meet in Kapoeta South County. There, the plan is that they shall review and make amends to previous recommendations and resolutions that have been ignored, and hopefully agree to participate in a two-day peace conference supported by the peacekeeping mission and the new state Ministry of Peacebuilding.