South Sudan

Civil society, political stakeholders, community leaders in Western Bahr el Ghazal attend UNMISS-organized peace forum, find ways to work together despite COVID-19

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LUDANGA JIMMY

Keeping up momentum regarding the ongoing peace process in South Sudan despite nation-wide COVID-19 restrictions was at the heart of a recent day-long event organized by UNMISS Civil Affairs in Western Bahr el Ghazal. The forum aimed at widening engagement with and understanding of the Revitalized Peace Agreement by political stakeholders, including representatives of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in Opposition (SPLM-IO), religious and community leaders as well as civil society actors in the region.

Participants agreed on developing communication modalities that would help them continue to work together for the cause of sustainable peace. These included technology-based options such as using social media applications and short messaging systems to foster ongoing dialogues that, ultimately, will serve to bring social cohesion and reconciliation to Western Bahr el Ghazal, a region that has been devastated by conflict.

Following the end of discussions, Muzama Assunta, Programme Officer, Community Empowerment for Peace, expressed her appreciation for UNMISS. “Such platforms are necessary for all of us, be it civil society, religious and community leaders, politicians, to come together and speak productively about something that South Sudanese people long for the most - sustainable peace. Even more importantly, it enables us to know each other and forge collaborations for a viable way forward that will usher in a prosperous future for all communities,” said Ms. Assunta.

Joseph Luka, Executive Director of Peace, Friends and Community Development, and the State Coordinator for the Citizens Task Force, Western Bahr el Ghazal, echoed Ms. Assunta’s views. “COVID-19 is not merely a deadly virus; it is also divisive in the extreme because the mitigating measures against coronavirus isolate us further as communities and as individuals. Therefore, this forum is of paramount importance as it allows all of us to safely come together and discuss cooperative ways to ensure that the peace process doesn’t lose impetus,” he added. “We can find ways and means to tackle issues directly affecting different communities which, in turn, impact relationships between authorities as well as political actors at both the state and national levels.”

For his part, Mustapha Ten-Jan, Head, Acting Head, UNMISS Field Office and Chief, Civil Affairs, Western Bahr el Ghazal, reiterated the mission’s commitment to ensure trust- and confidence-building, fostering dialogue and creating platforms for information-sharing between all stakeholders in South Sudan. "Events such as this one aim to provide a space for political actors and civil society to interact, thereby enhancing unity, removing mistrust and facilitating peaceful coexistence. Building trust amid great personal, social or political differences lies at the heart of what all civil affairs personnel strive towards in peace operations worldwide. Now, more than ever, when the entire world is being torn apart by a health emergency, it is incumbent upon us to do the best we can to bring the people of South Sudan together," said Mr. Ten-Jan.

Working towards durable peace across South Sudan remains a key aspect of the UNMISS mandate.