Church Body Tireless in Finding Peace in Jonglei

“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it”, (Psalm 34:14).

Note From Gurtong Editor: In spite of setbacks, the Sudan Council of Churches under the leadership of Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul shoulders on to find a lasting peaceful resolution to the devastating Lou Nuer and the Murle’s cycle of Conflict. Gurtong Trust – Peace and Media Project encourages the Church never to tire of this noble mission. Gurtong appeals to all national leaders, in particular the Vice President of the Republic Dr Riek Machar Teny, as a national leader and ethnic Nuer, to assert his considerable weight behind the Church; we call on both ministers Dr Marial Benjamin and Justice John Luk as natives of the Lou Nuer to assert more efforts into finding a lasting solution to this pestering disease among the people of Jonglei. You all need to be heard publicly, repeatedly  and clearly on what you are doing to stop this cycle of violence. The same applies to the Murle political leaders. It should not be left to the Church alone.  Too many of our innocent citizens have died needlessly in this particular ethnic conflict and the Church needs all the support it can get from all of us. Please read the statement below:

Sudan Council of Churches Peace Mediation and Reconciliation Committee,Jonglei Peace Process Statement
15TH December 2011

“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it”, (Psalm 34:14).

The joint dialogue conference of Murle and Lou Nuer has been postponed until early January 2012, following developments on the ground, and after consulting the political leadership of the two communities.

Nevertheless, the SCC peace team proceeded to Waat and Pibor from 12th - 14th December 2011, the original dates of the meeting. This was to demonstrate to the two communities the Church's on-going commitment to leading this peace process. It was also an opportunity for us to consult with the ordinary people and Church communities on the ground in order to confirm the reports we had received earlier.

Following major clashes on 18th August 2011 when a Murle attack on Pieri in Uror County killed over 700 people, women and children were abducted and thousands of cattle stolen, the SCC initiated a peace process. SCC called a meeting of political leaders and sent peace teams to establish the facts on the ground and to mobilise the people for peace. In November 2011, concurrent conferences were held in Waat and Pibor, in which the people expressed their desire for peace.

Following those meetings, six representatives of each community were brought to Juba for training as peace mobilisers. All seemed ready for the joint peace conference. Originally this was to be held in Pibor, but subsequently it was decided to hold it for two days in Waat and then two days in Pibor.

However just a few days before the peace conference, reports began to emerge that Lou youth had mobilised and were moving towards Murle land. The team flew to Pieri and Waat at short notice on Friday 9th December to confirm the truth behind the reports by listening to the people on the ground, in order to avoid acting on distorted information. The people said that the youth were mobilising for self- defence and that the peace conference should go on as planned.

After we returned to Juba, we called a meeting with the political leadership of the two communities on 10th December to discuss with them our findings mentioned above.  The Lou leadership urged a delay of three days (“which could stretch to ten days”) while they consulted the youth and the Prophet; the Murle leadership concurred. The SCC team offered to travel again on Sunday 11th December to meet the Prophet and the Lou youth leaders, but the Prophet reportedly declined when contacted by the politicians. While the political leadership advised that the peace conference should be postponed, the Church felt that the engagement of the communities on the ground should go on. Therefore the team decided to go and meet the people to reassure them of the Church commitment to the pursuit for lasting peace amongst the communities in conflict.

Our mission to Waat and Pibor During the visit to Waat on 12th December, the Lou Nuer said they were angry at attacks attributed to the Murle several times between 3rd and 9th December, stealing cattle, killing several people, abducting children and women and wounding many more in the process. We were told that the Lou Nuer youth felt betrayed by the Murle while their two communities were engaging and preparing for the joint dialogue conference. The youth therefore mobilised to go after their cattle and their people who were abducted during the raids. They reportedly felt that the Murle were not committed to peace.

On the 13th December we flew to Pibor where we held a public meeting with the local authorities and the community. We explained the position of the Lou Nuer and why they mobilised themselves. The Murle said they felt aggrieved that the Lou Nuer have mobilised to attack them, and they reported that they had also been raided on two occasions by Lou. Their youth therefore mobilised for self- defence.

The way forward:
The Church regrets this delay and calls upon the two communities and their leaders to refrain from any acts of aggression and specifically to avoid using violence against each other. In particular the Church urges the leadership (political, traditional and spiritual) and the youth of the two communities to do everything in their power to avoid taking their communities back to violent conflict. This would be subjecting the newly-born Republic of South Sudan to international ridicule and humiliation.

We are aware that long-running and complex conflicts are not solved by one or two conferences alone. First and foremost it takes the will and commitment of the communities involved; the entire community, not just some parts thereof. The Church cannot force the two communities to make peace. Peace is in their own hands. Secondly, it takes a long and at times difficult process, maybe lasting many months and involving various conferences and community mobilisation exercises. The Church remains ready humbly to contribute towards the facilitation of peace between the tribes in conflict and will be there as long as it takes, and is preparing to engage more deeply with the grassroots, including the youth section leaders.

The Church will seek to address long-standing issues between these two communities, as well as neighbouring communities, as part of a larger grassroots peace process covering the whole of Jonglei State.

However lasting peace will not come while these communities are underdeveloped and isolated. A peace dividend is needed, and we urge government, UN, donors, the business community and NGOs to cooperate in providing roads, mobile phone networks, schools, clinics, water, electricity, food security and other aspects of development. We would also stress the need for trauma healing to help communities learn that violence is not the answer to disputes.

We appeal to all the churches in the Republic of South Sudan to hold a Day of Prayer and Fasting in their various houses of worship, uplifting the State of Jonglei for the pain of those who suffer, particularly children and women, for which they are not responsible.
We urge the leadership of the Lou Nuer and Murle to listen to the cry of their communities, the Church, the government, the United Nations and all the NGOs working in the new Republic of South Sudan not to proceed with any acts of aggression.

The Church commends both the government and the UN for the rapid deployment of SPLA and UNMISS troops to keep the warring parties apart. While military force does not resolve conflicts, nevertheless in this case it can prevent bloodshed and create space for a peace process to take place.

We appeal to the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the Government of Jonglei State to do everything in their power to stop the likely violence which could potentially lead to large-scale death and destruction among the communities involved.
We appeal to the international community to support the government and the Church in their efforts to stabilise the situation, promote mediation and provide long-term peace dividends.

For all NGOs operating in the Republic of South Sudan, we urge an emergency response to provide food and other supplies in view of food scarcity arising from the combination of floods and conflicts which displaced thousands from their homes and therefore affected food production, leaving many vulnerable to famine.

Daniel Deng Bul, Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan Chair of the Peace Mediation and Reconciliation CommitteeSudan Council of Churches For more information contact: Gachora 920 458 089 / +211 956 051 179


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