Fighting for peace, battling the elements

After a successful renewal of the Inter-Communal Governance Structures for Jonglei-GPAA in July, the delegates came together in Ayod from 2-6 November. Weather plagued the logistics, but the meeting maintained momentum from the first gathering in Juba.

The weather underlined yet again its supremacy in the logistics of inter-communal activities, with heavy rain across the region delaying scheduled flights from a number of locations. The start of the event was delayed by two days, with the final participants from Yuai joining in the course of the opening session.

The July ICGS Communique outlined commitments of the Structures, Partners and Government to be fulfilled by the time of this Ayod meeting. Amidst the disruption to the program, the substance of discussions addressed progress and issues of the last three months. These reflections began in communal groupings, with that reflection being a foundation for the deliberations in their inter-communal structures on priorities and measures for the upcoming three months.

With the delays to the start of the program, this left the structures with one and half days to discuss their issues, priorities and follow-up measures for the coming three quarters. 

The call and response of the participants throughout was ‘Jonglei, GPAA… GPAA, Jonglei’ to take the place of mantras that often feature throughout political meetings, emphasising this as a community-led agenda where politics is a negotiation between the interests and needs of communities rather than the wholesale devolution of national level dynamics to the grassroots.

Accountability was yet again the clarion call. During an evening meal hosted by local Dinka traders, in support of the peace, one of them shared a cautionary tale of the rats who were grappling with the threat posed by a cat:

They met together to discuss how to address the issue, and agreed that a bell needed to be put around the cat’s neck. It was left to agree who would take responsibility for attaching the bell to the cat. No-one was willing. It echoes the situation we find ourselves in here with the peace. We are willing to agree on peace, but we aren’t sufficiently willing to work on implementation.

Discussions in communal groups discussed progress, but emphasised the ongoing incidents that are undermining wider peace efforts, including sporadic road ambushes on key arterial and feeder roads, the concerning development of inter-communal attacks in towns, and frustration at the lack of accountability. 

Partners themselves were able to report progress on key commitments to the community at the July ICGS, along with explanations of the delay to the inter-communal exchange visit to Pibor that was mutually agreed to be deferred until dry weather permits the group to travel sufficiently into the border areas of Nanaam.

The cumbersome interpreting processes created further drag on the conversations, and the Communique reflects only an incremental step forward. Nonetheless, the continuity of participants lays some foundation of relationships to drive forward action, and on the final morning, after the conclusion of the program, the youth leaders made collective representations around the approach to disseminating messages through their communities, building on the cattle investment made by the partners following the July ICGS. This nascent sign of inter-communal solidarity among the youth presents one signal of opportunity to amplify in the coming months before the next meeting, scheduled for Wuno, GPAA. 

If the weather permits… 

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