Over the course of three days, persons from different communities staying at the UN protection of civilians’ site in Bentiu have discussed how best to contribute to the peace process and political effectiveness.
A key outcome was the formation of a joint advocacy group with the mandate of reuniting civilian organisations and promoting the kind of inter-communal harmony that has been sorely missing over the last few years of varying degrees of conflict in the region.
“Our contribution to the process of peace is very important. And with one voice, this civil society umbrella will enable us to tell the leaders what is wrong and when their policies are not effective. That way they can be corrected,” said Daniel Wal Gatluak, a member of the new-born entity.
Female participants at the forum, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, made sure to add their weight to the proceedings.
“We are in a good position to tell our leaders about our struggles, and we as women need equal participation in this advocacy group,” said a female friend of Martha Nyayiey Gatlak, who had just pointed out some of the specific challenges, including sexual violence, faced by women.
Mr. Gatluak thinks that the time has come for normal citizens, regardless of their political affiliations, to “own” the revitalised peace agreement and make sure that their representatives implement it.
That observation, about the importance of impartiality, strikes a chord with Paul Edejo Abikwo, a Civil Affairs Officer serving with the UN peacekeeping mission.
“Since I got here, I’ve been advocating for the [establishment of] a civil society forum which is neither a political party nor any form of organised opposition,” he says, adding that he expects members of the civil society to raise burning issues which may be too sensitive for the parties to the conflict to mention in face-to-face discussions.
“Civil society advocacy has worked successfully in other places, including in Darfur,” Mr. Abikwo points out.
John Chuol Thurbil, a representative of the youth staying at the UN protection site, the objectives of the advocacy group should be set high and be broad.
“I see this forum as civil society for social change. We are not only discussing about security or politics, but also about social values that can include our women and girls in our course of development as a nation.”
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).