Sudan: Evaluation and assessment of needs of IDPs from Western Upper Nile
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (New Sudan Council Of Churches)
Dear NSCC Partners and Donors,
Please find attached herewith a report based on field visit conducted by Mario Muor Muor with a view to evaluate and assess the needs of IDPs from Western Upper Nile who are currently in the counties of Yirol, Rumbek and Tonj in Bahr El Ghazal Region.
The report speaks for itself. The NSCC Peace Desk is pleased to distribute this report in anticipation that NGOs who are interested to assist the Nuer IDPs should immediately respond to the needs listed in this report.
Please contact me if you need any further clarifications on this matter.
PEACE DESK FACILITATOR
REPORT ON FIELD VISIT
BY MARIO MUOR MUOR*
The need for field visit as part of the mechanism for monitoring the implementation of Wunlit People to People Peace Covenant was arrived at in a meeting held on 17th January 2000 in the office of the Peace Facilitator, Mr. Telar R. Deng. Mr. Telar Deng, Ms. Liz Phillippo, Mrs, Awut Deng and myself attended the meeting. The meeting explored how best the resolutions and recommendations of Wunlit People-to-People Peace Covenant and October 1999 Yirol Peace Council meeting could be implemented. After constructive deliberations on various issues regarding the implementation of Wunlit Peace Agreement, it was decided that Mr. Mario Muor Muor and Mrs. Awut Deng Acuil would pay a field visit to Tonj, Yirol and Rumbek Counties, in Bahr El Ghazal Region.
Mrs. Awut was going for peace mobilization which mainly focus on women. Mr. Mario Muor Muor was to critically evaluate the status of Wunlit Peace Covenant on the ground and at the same time to make assessment of the needs of the displaced Nuer people from Western Upper Nile who now are in the Counties of Tonj, Yirol and Rumbek. It was emphasized that I have to focus on how both communities - Dinka and Nuer are faring together and how the displaced persons are being served by NGOs in the displaced centres at Wuncuei and Makuac of Tonj County and Pagareu in Yirol County.
Following the decision that I should visit the displaced in the counties therein, I left Nairobi for Lokichoggio on 28th January 2000 and proceeded to Thiet in Tonj County on 30/1/2000. On the following day, I met with the commissioner of Tonj County Mr. Charles Kuol Deng to brief him about my mission to the county. In our discussion, the commissioner expressed his full support to Wunlit People to People Peace Covenant, which according to him, has brought peace, and stability to his people.
On 2/2/00 I met the Project Manager of WVI Mr. Ayalew Teshome to request from him for transport to Makuac where the Nuer displaced people are residing. On 5/2/00 I was given a lift by WVI staff who were visiting Makuac and Wuncui on a normal routine work. We left Thiet at 8.00 am Sudan Local Time and we arrived Makuac at noon after a stopover at Wuncuei where some displaced persons are staying. On arrival, we were received by chiefs and notable elders from Dinka and Nuer who included Mr. Wilfred Ring Aduer, a veteran politician from Makuac area and Mr. Gideon Biding an ex-administrator in Leer before the displacement.
At Makuac there was calm, peaceful and friendly atmosphere. I did not see people moving with guns as it was the case before Wunlit Peace Agreement. Amazingly enough, the Nuer displace people were mixed with indigenous people in a cheerful mood. The Dinka and Nuer children were playing together.
The dramatic experience was that, while sitting under the tree waiting for the meeting with Nuer chiefs to be organized, two small boys of about seven years old came towards me while holding their hands in a friendly manner and smiling to each other. My attention was of course drawn to these two friendly boys and I decided to tell them in Dinka language to get closer to me. Both spontaneously moved towards me still holding their hands. At the beginning, I thought both were Dinka boys, most probably one with his brother, to discover later that one of them was a Nuer boy. I asked for the name of the boy next to me who happened to be a Dinka boy, he told me his name (I am sorry to have forgotten his name) and he quickly added that this is my Nuer friend who came to stay here about five months ago. This statement made me more interested in the two boys and asked them to sit down with me.
After both sat down, I told the same boy to repeat what he told me earlier and he said, "this is my Nuer friend". The next question to the same boy was "Why is your friend here?" This small boy replied "Ok aci door ke Nuer" which means "We have reconciled with the Nuer". He went on to say, if it was not of Peace Agreement I could have killed him. He continued to say Wunlit Agreement have brought peace between Nuer and Dinka. This is in no doubt a testimony that Wunlit Peace Covenant is welcome by adults and children alike. After that encounter with the two boys I went for the meeting with the following Nuer chiefs and elders:
1. Isaac Magok Gatluak
2. Bol Lam
3. Peter Gatkuoth
4. Par Cany
5. Gideon Biding
6. Kuong Mabil
7. Kuol Kach
8. Lipjok Bur
9. Poch Kueth
At the beginning of the meeting, the most articulate Nuer chief, Mr. Isaac Magok Gatluak gave an account of how they peacefully stayed with the Dinka community since their arrival to the Dinka land last July. Other speakers who followed him repeated similar message. The only violent incidence reported was the one which occurred over the water point at a bore well at Wuncuei on 3/2/00, just two days before my arrival to Makuac. This incident was initially between Dinka and Nuer women but later some young men from both sides got involved. The fight was with hands. Guns and spears were not used. As the site of the incident was near to the police station, the policemen intervened and the situation was swiftly brought under control. The culprits were arrested and put under police custody. Elders from both sides came to the scene and the situation was quickly normalized. At the time I left Makuac, the case was being investigated by the police with the aim of presenting it to the Dinka - Nuer chief's joint court that is already operational. This incident examplified that scarce resources such as water can trigger off violence between the two communities.
During the discussion with the chiefs and elders the following problems were articulated:
1. The food supplied by WVI was neither enough nor regular. "The distribution methodology is very bad", remarked one of the chiefs. The real actual number of the displaced people is 8,000 persons. But Chief Isaac Magok Gatluak argued that about 3,000 returnees who are Dinka are equally vulnerable like us. We cannot eat alone while leaving them to suffer. "It is unfair", he concluded.
2. Almost all the speakers emphasized acute shortage of water. One chief remarked that the peace and stability brought by Wunlit Peace Covenant might be jeopardized or put at risk by competition over water and other scarce resources. All the chiefs unanimously agreed that there is urgent need to drill at least two boreholes at Nyijok. This place is a distance of one and a half-hours walk from Makuac towards Toch. It is a place the displaced persons have opted to resettle and cultivate during next rainy season if water is made available now to enable them make shelters and clear their fields. It is highly fertile land but without people due to lack of water.
3. Various speakers repeatedly talked about the urgent need for agricultural tools such as axes, pangas, sickles, hoes etc. One speaker underscored that "We can make our shelters and clear our fields if basic tools are made available to us". He went on to argue that we are capable of producing our food at the next harvest, if tools and seeds are supplied to us at the right time i.e. Before the end of March. He further went on to say that we are lucky to be given fertile land by our Dinka brothers what we need from NGOs and international agencies are water, agricultural tools and seeds." In the light of the above, the dire need for water, tools and seeds are not only a priority but also a necessity.
4. The other basic needs requested by different speakers include the following:
a. Fishing equipment
b. Mosquito nets, blankets and plastic sheets
c. Cooking salt
d. Washing soap
e. Health and veterinary services
This meeting took about four hours before it came to an end.
On 6/2/00 I called a general meeting which was well attended by both Nuer and Dinka communities. The discussion during this meeting was very lively and interesting. Many stories of how the two communities stayed together were said. Many assurances were made to uphold the spirit of Wunlit People to People Peace Covenant. Various speakers repeated some of the problems we discussed with chiefs the other day.
I took this opportunity to explain the essence of peace and its usefulness to both communities. I appealed to them to uphold the historic peace and to extend it to other areas in the New Sudan.
Due to difficulty of transport, I arrived in Rumbek County on 15/2/00. While in Rumbek, I talked to some of the chiefs who attended Wunlit People-to-People Peace Conference. Among them was Chief Kulong Marial of Agar Pakam Dinka section. Chief Kulong disclosed to me that their borders with Nuer have been peaceful since they departed from Wunlit. He assured me that this peace stability at the border shall continue to prevail as long as both parties are committed to Wunlit Peace Agreement. He admitted that his people have not returned to their original villages which they abandoned during war between Nuer and Dinka. The reason of not returning to these villages is not due to security as it was the case in the past; but due to lack of basic services such as water, health services, schools, border police and courts etc. He requested me to convey to NSCC and the international community to assist in the implementation of the People-to-People Peace Covenant resolutions and recommendations. Chief Kulong stressed that NSCC and the International community have a moral obligation to assist us in implementing this People to People Peace Covenant. Chief Kulong concluded that "We are capable of returning abducted children and women we can return looted cattle, we can settle abductees marriages but we cannot drill bore wells, nor can we provide health services to our people as well as we cannot provide veterinary services to our valuable cattle nor can we reopen the destroyed schools without your helping hands."
On 19/2/00 I visited Yirol County where I met on the same day with the Executive Committee of Bahr El Ghazal Youth Development Agency (BYDA) an indigenous community based NGO which collaborated with NSCC in the preparation of Wunlit People-to-People Peace Conference in 1999. The Executive Committee briefed me how the displaced Nuer people have been faring together with the Dinka communities. They also briefed me of how BYDA took the lead in reconciling Ciec and Atuot of Dinka sections who fought towards the end of 1999. The situation was exploited by some unruly elements who set up gangs to loot innocent civilians. The situation indeed affected both the Nuer and Dinka communities. BYDA took up the challenge with the help of local authorities and the two warring Dinka sections were reconciled and the situation was quickly normalized. The two Dinka sections and Nuer communities are now living together in harmony.
On 20/2/00, I was given a car by Concern WorldWide, an International NGO working in partnership with BYDA to visit the displaced Nuer communities at Pagareu which is 18 miles from Yirol town. Though this visit was hastily organized, I managed to meet significant number of people from Nuer communities. I was informed by the displaced persons themselves that there had been 1026 persons and of late about 1322 arrived from Leer area of Western Upper Nile making a total of 2348 displaced persons. I saw some new arrivals myself. The health of the children is not as good as the ones I saw in Makuac. This poor health of children is clear evidence that these children are either not getting good feeding or they have just arrived from far areas having spent some time walking on foot. While I was there last October the total number of the displaced Nuer was about 902 persons and now the total have reached 2348 persons. It suggests that there have been steady influx of displaced persons at the rate of about 400 persons per month.
I am urging NSCC to persuade NGOs and agencies to focus on these vulnerable displaced persons or otherwise malnutrition will soon be rampant among the children.
In my discussion with the displaced persons, the following problems were presented:
1. Irregular and inadequate food distribution.
2. Lack of mosquito nets, blankets and plastic sheets
3. Need for fishing equipment and materials
4. Lack of agricultural tools and seeds
5. Absence of health services
In summary, I am urging the leadership of NSCC to appeal to international community to make concerted efforts to assist in the following:
1. Provision of clean water especially to the displaced persons at Wuncuei and Makuac where there is hardly any water. Medic Drilling Company is currently drilling for MSF (Swiss) in the same area, if it could be coordinated for Medic to drill at least two bore holes at Nyijok for the displaced persons.
2. Provision of agricultural tools and seeds for the displaced Nuer in Tonj and Yirol Counties.
3. Provision of fishing equipment and material.
4. Provision of mosquito nets, blankets and plastic sheets.
5. Regular supply of food items to the displaced persons up to the end of October 2000.
6. Out of meager resources of NSCC it has to take up the challenge of providing the displaced with cooking salt and washing soap.
Last and not least, it is my considered opinion that NSCC should come up with a strategy and plan of action to consolidate Wunlit People-to-People Peace Covenant by assisting to implement its resolutions and recommendations. This indeed needs a balance approach between extension of People-to-People Peace to other areas in New Sudan and consolidation / strengthening of what had already been achieved in Wunlit Peace Covenant.
May Almighty God guide us in our endeavor to assist our people to achieve just and everlasting peace.
*Mario Muor Muor is an advisor to the Chairman of the Nuer-Dinka Peace Council (West of the Nile)