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"Violence not acceptable means of solving disputes," Primate tells South Sudan rebel leader

Posted on: August 1, 2013 1:55 PM
Archbishop Deng
Photo Credit: ACNS
Related Categories: apjn, peace & justice, South Sudan

Current conflict is greatest single obstacle to the implementation of the peace agreement in South Sudan

By Bellah Zulu, ACNS

The Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and current Chairperson of the Committee for National Reconciliation in South Sudan, the Most Revd Daniel Deng Bul, has called for peace in the country following the recent wave of violence in the state of Jonglei.

In a special message on the current situation in Jonglei, issued July 29, the Archbishop expressed his sadness at the violence in the country. He said: “As the Committee and the nation begin the long journey towards reconciliation and healing in South Sudan, we are saddened by new outbreaks of violence which make that goal more difficult and more distant.”

He added: “At the same time, we believe that there is hope for a peaceful solution to these conflicts and that reconciliation and healing are not only about old conflicts but also new ones.”

History of current conflict

In May last year, the paramount chiefs of all six communities in Jonglei State signed a peace agreement under the auspices of the Presidential Committee for Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance in Jonglei State which was the culmination of more than a year of work amongst the grassroots communities.

According to the statement, the agreement provided the framework for resolving the differences, which had caused violence in Jonglei State. “Unfortunately the process was halted by what we would describe as an external intervention,” bemoaned the Committee Chairperson.

“Although our brother David Yau Yau is a son of Jonglei State, his rebellion against the central government is not part of the same dynamic as the conflict between communities,” clarified Archbishop Deng.

David Yau Yau is a rebel leader from the local Murle tribe, leading an insurrection against the South Sudanese government in Jonglei State, which the Archbishop described as “the battle of a single disaffected leader and his supporters against the nation of South Sudan.”

The Committee Chairperson strongly believes that the rebel leader is being supported by a foreign government to destabilise the young nation and that some political interests within South Sudan may be manipulating the situation in the country for their own benefit.

Stakeholder failure to address situation

The UN Mission in South Sudan prepares for a patrol from its base in Jonglei
The UN Mission in South Sudan prepares for a patrol from its base in Jonglei
Photo Credit: Wikimedia New Zealand Defence Forces

Archbishop Deng also revealed that during the clashes, both the government security forces and United Nations Mission in South Sudan were unable to protect the citizens resulting in a great deal of “death, destruction and displacement, reversing some of the progress that had been made since the peace agreement was signed.”

“All of these negative consequences might have been avoided, or been less severe, if more attention had been given by government, UN and NGOs to the implementation of the 2012 Jonglei peace agreement brokered by the Committee for Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance in Jonglei State,” bemoaned Abp Deng.

The Archbishop attributed the recent spate of violence to failure by some stakeholders to make concrete steps towards the implementation of the relief and developmental programmes as recommended by the 2012 Jonglei peace agreement.

“This mishandling of the process after the peace agreement was signed created a window of opportunity for Yau Yau,” explained the Archbishop. “Six months with no peace divided created a vacuum which he (Yau Yau) was able to fill and hence the provision of a peace dividend equitably across the whole state remains an urgent priority.”

The Committee Chairperson called the situation in Jonglei a “massive tragedy” expressed hope that the situation can be resolved and should not destabilise the whole nation.

International media perspective

Abp Deng expressed his disappointment at the “faulty analysis used by many within the international community and their lack of understanding of the complexity and the long term roots of this crisis.”

He said, “we believe that the 2012 Jonglei peace agreement is still a viable option if a window of opportunity can be created in which to implement it.  A new agreement is not needed as the current one already includes all the inter-communal factors which must be addressed.”

Olive branch/appeal to rebel leader

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir
Photo Credit: Jenny Rockett / Wikipedia

The Peace and Reconciliation Committee believes that the greatest single obstacle to the implementation of the peace agreement is the current conflict being instigated by David Yau Yau and have since appealed to him to accept the amnesty offered to him and his followers by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, to cease fighting immediately and to seek peaceful means to resolve his differences with the government.

“We stand ready to meet him to facilitate this. We support the efforts of the many other players, including Murle elders and politicians, who are trying to persuade Yau Yau to accept the amnesty,” said the Archbishop.

“We do not wish to accuse nor demonise David Yau Yau. He is our brother, our son, our fellow citizen, our parishioner, loved by us,” said Abp Deng. “But we wish to advise him that in the newly independent nation of South Sudan, violence is no longer acceptable as a means of solving disputes.”

The Archbishop said that the country has moved on from the culture of war and now seeks a culture of peace. He added that the people of South Sudan have moved on from the power of the gun to the rule of law and advised the rebel leaders that if he continues on his present path, “he risks destroying all that we have achieved through decades of sacrifice and struggle.”

The Committee also warned other political actors to work for peace and the good of the nation rather than their own narrow interests. They also advised the government to be “prudent when dealing with its citizens in Jonglei and not intimidate the youth nor harm citizens, but rather to be seen to be fair and working for all communities.”

Optimistic about the future

“We look forward to the day, hopefully not too far distant, when Jonglei State can return to peace; when ongoing disputes between the communities can be resolved through peaceful means as agreed in 2012”

“When relief and development programmes are assisting all the people of Jonglei to improve their lives and work towards self-sufficiency; when the government provides infrastructure such as roads and communications networks to increase trade and interactions between communities and to enhance security and access to the rule of law for all.”

“When the cattle camp youth live in peace with each other and when David Yau Yau himself resolves his issues through a peaceful due process. Then we will indeed slaughter the fattened calf and feast with the prodigal son who has returned.”