EASTERN EQUATORIA: For sustainable peace to flourish, communities themselves must build it from the ground up.
That’s why the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported the Ministry of Local Government and Law Enforcement in Eastern Equatoria to bring together 60 community leaders, executive officers from local administrations, and representatives from communities for an intensive training on applying prevailing customary law to mitigate conflict and settle disputes peacefully.
The two-day workshop held in the state capital Torit was facilitated by the South Sudan Local Government Board and sought to promote community ownership of violence reduction.
“Local leaders are held in high esteem by communities and can become active influencers for peace,” revealed Abdallah Hassen Femai, Director General, state Ministry of Local Government and Law Enforcement.
“We therefore felt that it was necessary for us to organize a capacity building effort which would empower traditional authorities to effect real change at the grassroots. We are glad that UNMISS and UNDP agreed with us. This workshop will go a long way in helping nip conflict in the bud across Eastern Equatoria by boosting local ownership of peace processes,” he added.
Free-and-frank discussions among participants at the forum led to 19 resolutions that would enable traditional leaders to do their jobs well; these included the establishment of bench courts, construction of administrative area headquarters and additional such training opportunities to improve their work.
Aldo Ojara Akwilino, a participant, expressed his satisfaction with the proceedings.
“It has been enriching to sit together with fellow leaders from different counties and realize that we all face the same challenges when it comes to keeping our communities peaceful. This workshop has added value to our roles, helped us identify gaps that need support to be filled as well as reinforced our determination to collectively build peace,” he stated eloquently.
Partners have expressed interest in supporting traditional authorities by building their skills.
“As partners for peace and progress, we want to support you, give you opportunities to change your community by identifying common challenges plus finding appropriate solutions to these,” said Margaret Lado, a peace and community cohesion analyst with UNDP.
Ms. Lado’s views were echoed by Abdul Rahman Kamara, Team Leader for the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Civil Affairs arm in the Torit Field Office.
“Community leaders are agents of peace and their knowledge as well as moral authority is important to harness to build social cohesion from the ground up. UNMISS, as a partner for peace across South Sudan stands ready to support in every way we can,” he said.
In recent years, many traditional authorities have benefitted from various training opportunities funded by partners, including UNMISS.