UNMISS raises awareness on peace agreement deadlines, inclusion of traditional leaders, especially women, in political processes

unmiss women grassroots peace south sudan decision-making united nations un peacekeeping

At a two-day workshop facilitated by UNMISS in Northern Bahr El Ghazal for some 65 traditional leaders, spirited discussions revolved around the need for women's full participation in galvanizing the ongoing peace process in South Sudan as well as harnessing the expertise and influence of customary leaders to shape a brighter future for this young nation. Photo by Emmanuel Kele/UNMISS

13 Mar 2023

UNMISS raises awareness on peace agreement deadlines, inclusion of traditional leaders, especially women, in political processes

Emmanuel Kele

NORTHERN BAHR EL GHAZAL – As South Sudan gears up for its first peaceful, credible, and inclusive elections, traditional leaders have a crucial role in encouraging people to exercise their right to vote.

Together with the ongoing constitution-making process, timely elections are critical in completing this young nation’s democratic transition, determining how communities will live together harmoniously.

For its part, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is doing everything to ensure that every South Sudanese citizen is well-informed about the recent 24-month extension agreed upon by all parties to the 2018 peace deal.

A key constituent: Traditional leaders who are strong influencers at the grassroots.

The UN Peacekeeping mission, therefore, held a two-day workshop in Aweil, Northern Bahr El Ghazal, on strengthening the role of traditional and community leaders in ensuring steady peace gains.

“Traditional chiefs are the backbone of South Sudan, and they bring not only influence but unparalleled cultural understanding to the table,” revealed Abour Gordon Nhial, state Minister for Peacebuilding.

“Their participation in peace processes is, therefore, crucial to ensure our country can make demonstrable strides in fulfilling key benchmarks contained within the Revitalized Peace Agreement,” continued Minister Nhial.

65 traditional leaders participated in the event. Of them, only two were women, giving rise to legitimate concerns about the full and equal participation of South Sudanese women in politics, governance, decision-making, and public life.

“Men have dominated positions of power in our country for a long time,” stated Regina Angeth, the paramount chief of Malek-alel, who also narrates how female community leaders suffer from a lack of information flow.

“Of nearly 200 grassroots leaders in Northern Bahr El Ghazal, there are only two of us attending this forum. That statistic itself speaks to the narrow space we have to make our voices and opinions count,” she adds.

Ms. Angeth’s words are echoed by Angelina Thiep, Secretary of Public Relations of the state’s Women’s Association. “Women bind communities together and their role as peace brokers cannot be overstated. It is a fact that peace agreements are more durable when women participate equally and this workshop has served to underscore the need for all stakeholders in South Sudan to advocate for this worthy cause,” averred Ms. Thiep.   

The workshop, facilitated by the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Civil Affairs Division, concluded with recommendations on empowering female community leaders as well as effective contributions by all traditional leaders to shaping a peaceful, prosperous future for all South Sudanese.