The Sudan Council of Churches (the SCC) is warning of a new cycle of revenge and retaliation in South Sudan’s Jonglei State. Over 120,000 people have been affected by a conflict that flared over Christmas between the Murle and Lou Nuer communities in Jonglei.
A Caritas team is carrying out an evaluation of the humanitarian needs.
The SCC represents six Christian churches including the Roman Catholic Church. The SCC is calling on all sides to step back from ethnic hatred.
In a 18 January statement on Jonglei, it said: “Brutal actions were carried out against non-combatants. Ethnic hatred was expressed verbally, in graffiti left by the attackers and on the internet, and this could be the precursor to larger-scale atrocities.”
The SCC blames the conflict on inter-ethnic raiding against a backdrop of insufficient security provided by the Government and a UN peacekeeping force (UNMISS), a failure of political and religious leadership to influence events, militarization of communities and a growing disconnect between the youth and their elders.
The SCC says Churches must now spearhead a grassroots peace process as part of wider efforts to end the conflict. The SCC will train and equip key individuals from within the communities and particularly young people to act as peacebuilders. The process must involve “the long-term changing of attitudes and value systems which will eventually lead to a generation free of armed conflict.”
But the SCC says any peace process will fail unless under-development in Jonglei is addressed: “Development of the more isolated parts of Jonglei State must become a priority for Government, the business community and the aid community.”
Caritas Internationalis member Catholic Relief Services is working in Jonglei.
CRS Peacebuilding and Governance Programme Manager, Chris Wake said, “The recent violence there has been a major setback to the peace process, which has highlighted the importance of effectively engaging with the youth on both sides as an integral part of the process. Going forward CRS will continue to work with the SCC and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in pushing forward an inclusive, effective peace process.
“We will also work to ensure that our future humanitarian and development programming in Jonglei assists in addressing root causes of conflict and supporting the implementation of any peace deal. It is crucial for any aid agency operating in South Sudan to actively analyze the areas where they are working – so they can ensure that their interventions do not exacerbate imbalances within communities or tensions between different groups.