UNMISS Malakal facilitates mini dialogue between IDPs and local leaders from outside the camp
JENS KRISTENSEN/FILIP ANDERSSON
On 16 March, UNMISS Civil Affairs Division (CAD) and Communications and Public Information Section facilitated a mini conference in the UNMISS base in Malakal. Representatives for internally displaced persons staying at the UNMISS protection of civilians (PoC) site met with local leaders from outside the camp in a first and promising attempt to increase trust between the two groups.
The activity emanated from a request by the governor of Central Upper Nile State to support engagement between communities inside the PoC site and communities living outside, in areas like Latjor and Bieh. The activity was attended by 28 participants including 8 women from the neighboring communities and 22 IDP representatives including 5 women.
In his opening remarks, Jens Kristensen, Acting Head of the Malakal Field Office and also a Civil Affairs Officer, emphasized the objective of pursuing peace through dialogue and encouraging intercommunal engagement.
During the presentations the participants from both sides shared their experience and current status and called upon each other to find ways of embracing peace. The discussion also sought to encourage IDPs to venture out of the PoC site and perhaps return to their places of origin.
The objective of the mini conference was to enable dialogue and discuss lessons learned on the conflict resolution initiative undertaken by the Dinka and the Nuer.
While the event is just a beginning and while there are still some trust issues between some of the PoC site-based IDPs and anyone from outside, CAD was encouraged to note how well the face-to-face dialogue went, with participants exchanging hugs and contact details. Visiting Nuer leaders also took the opportunity to visit members of their extended families living in the PoC site.
This event also provided a good staging ground for the CAD-organized series of dialogues among women groups and traditional and religious leaders of the PoC site and in Malakal Town scheduled to be conducted shortly. These dialogues are expected to further improve relations between those living inside and outside of the protection of civilians site respectively.
Participants in the mini conference called for an immediate intervention from all levels of government to support peace initiatives at the grassroots level as part of the solution to the ongoing conflict in the country.