UNMISS trains traditional and community leaders in Morobo on localized provisions of the Revitalized Peace Agreement
For Alex Taban Lo Abaa, paramount chief of Morobo county in Central Equatoria, the past six years have been spent trying to keep community members falling into a spiral of violence, death and destruction that was left in the wake of civil wars.
Disputes abounded and he didn’t have much help in resolving their issues. However, a recent four-day, UNMISS-facilitated training has given Mr. Abaa hope.
“When you are leading a community, they look to you for guidance on a wide range of issues, be it customary marriages, conflicts with other groups or domestic issues,” reveals Mr. Abaa. “But for me it was difficult after the events of 2016 because everything changed, and I wasn’t sure what the laws were. However, today UNMISS has raised our awareness on the provisions contained within the Revitalized Peace Agreement, one of which is the Local Government Act, and I now have a definite framework within which I can guide members of my community when they need my help,” he states.
Gaetano Mabe Noah, the executive chief of Kirkir boma, Gulumbi payam [administrative division] expressed similar sentiments. “It’s vital that every leader is aware of the ongoing push for durable peace across South Sudan. This training has made us aware that all citizens have a role to play in ensuring that all conflicts are resolved, and every South Sudanese coexists with one another. I feel empowered by this knowledge,” he states.
For women attending the forum, the key takeaway was implementing the provision of 35 per cent women’s representation in all levels of governance and decision-making.
“I have just discovered that women need to be included in governance structures from the grassroots to the national levels,” says Josephine Tiko. “This is new and valuable information for us because as women our voices have traditionally not been part of political decisions at all. We finally have the chance to be heard and truly included in shaping a peaceful, prosperous country,” she adds.
The Local Government Act empowers community leaders to settle disputes based on customary practices, solve domestic issues and prevent conflict from escalating. It is especially useful in areas where there are no statutory courts and no police presence.
“In far-flung locations such as Morobo, it is critical that local leaders are well-informed about the Local Government Act because there are no courts in such locations,” states Taban Oliver, a legal expert. “It becomes mandatory, in such situations, for community leaders to be conversant with basic laws and human rights responsibilities so that they can adjudicate disputes swiftly and effectively,” he adds.
Most importantly, the Act aims at accelerating and supporting the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement.
UNMISS teamed with Morobo county authorities to deliver this much-needed workshop.