Slideshow Banner4 WHAT we do

by Hope Tichaenzana Chichaya, Program Manager in South Sudan

My teammates Kerrin, Peter and I sat down on the balcony of the guesthouse. Our view was a pile of cars that had been destroyed during the recent violence in Mundri, South Sudan. In the back­ground, I could hear the news from the TV room and occasionally the loud clanking of the power generator would drown out the anchor. I checked my watch; it was still too early to call home. On this night, I especially missed my family. The recent escalation of violence had displaced hundreds of people, destroyed homes and torn families apart. I was tired and unmotivated when I thought about the scourge of violence upon innocent civilians. It made being away from home harder than usual.

Right before the end of the news, I dashed down to the TV room to hear the news anchor wrap up with the daily updates. The headlines were the usual—U.S. elections, the Syrian war and the migrant camps in the UK. There was no mention of South Sudan. Not even a brief update. Frustrated, I headed towards bed.

Reflecting on success

To ease my mind, I began thinking of the small successes that my team and I had earlier in the day. Someone in the morning told me, “There are more students going to school today. This is good!” In the afternoon, a businessman told me, “Your presence has been felt and it is important you came. There are now three more shops.” While doing our patrols we were told that the shops were staying open later and more civilians were moving in and out of town.

I smiled to myself. These are small but encour­aging achievements. It felt good to know people felt safe enough to go about their daily activities partly because of our efforts. I have faith that NP’s presence makes a difference. I believe it has built confidence and safety for civilians. Their comments and hopes are my inspiration for a better tomorrow.

I got into bed and tried to fall asleep, I rolled around to change sides. I rolled again and again. Several thoughts raced around in my head about the previous days and what we have to accomplish. I wondered how much longer it would be before I fell asleep. I thought about the recent violence and how we could best help to mitigate the conflict and protect civilians.

I checked the time—almost midnight.

Getting a head start

Unable to sleep, I got up and prepared some work for the next day. By the time I felt tired enough to sleep, I had written my speech for the inter-religious women peace rally. I checked my to-do list. Tomorrow, my team would be going into a controversial area with strictly limited access to participate in a humanitarian assessment. I also had to write an appointment letter to see the Army General so that we could introduce our work, our projects and negotiate access. I needed to clarify what NP stands for. But I decided to save that for the morning and went back to bed.

As I lay there, I could hear the night’s silence broken by insects outside. The generators had turned off a long time ago. From the room next door, I could hear my neighbors snoring and enjoying their sleep. Even my favorite neighbor’s dog howled late into the night. Although, it would be easy to be jealous of my sleeping neighbor, and the chaos outside was disturbing, my reflections from the day comforted me. It felt good to contribute to creating a safe space where people could continue living their lives with hope and dignity.

 

A LITTLE MORE ABOUT PEACEKEEPER HOPE TICHAENZANA CHICHAYA

Hope has been with NP working in South Sudan since 2013 and is now serving as Program Manager. He holds masters degrees in both Business Administration and Peace Studies & International Affairs. Currently, he is in Bangkok, Thailand where he is further developing his skills as a Rotary Peace Fellow.

My hero is my late dad, Abisha Tafireshango Dhliwayo. He taught me gender equality, nonviolence, and introduced to me the concept and practice of ‘servanthood leadership’.

What inspires me in protecting civilians is that I be­lieve in ‘serving’ towards something bigger than me.

What I encourage in others is to believe in and support the effectiveness and efficiency of unarmed civilian protection in situations of violent conflict. More than ever, investment in this concept and practice is needed.

A book I would recommend reading The Moral Imagina­tion: The Art and Soul of Building Peace by John Paul Lederach.

In my spare time I enjoy cooking, socializing, dancing and spending time with my family.

Something else about me I want to contribute towards peaceful co-existence in the world. I believe ‘in all things to love and to serve.’ There is a better alterna­tive to violence and that is nonviolence.

Women peacekeepers in South Sudan with MelBy Mel Duncan, Co-Founder and Director of Advocacy and Outreach

I have just returned from South Sudan. I am heartbroken and inspired. Adequate adjectives escape me. In such extremes, words can lose their meaning. How easily terms like famine, gender based violence, internally displaced, etc. can become abstractions even for the most compassionate of us. I was overwhelmed with anger as I stood with people in the dust, heat, and destruction while armed men lurked close by. Yet, even in those conditions, I saw glimmers of resilience forming into action. For example, I sat in a hot, dark hut with 100 women, most of whom are rape survivors, as they talked about preventing children from becoming soldiers, intervening when violence flares and organizing rallies to bring opposing clans together. They told me about transporting a rape survivor in a wheelbarrow to a medical clinic. Even with limited resources, these women tirelessly work to protect themselves and others. They want a voice at the peace talks! Seldom have I felt such energy and spirit!

NP’s teams are training and supporting these women peacekeepers  ̶  close to a thousand at work in five locations. Regardless of how bleak the prognosis, we will align with those who without particular power or skill are nonviolently changing the world. The lead article in Sunday’s New York Times, War Consumes South Sudan, a Young Nation Cracking Apart illustrates the horror in places like Bentiu  ̶  where we have a team of 21 civilian protectors. Amid the Times’ stories of murder, starvation and gang rape they neglect to tell about these remarkable women who have stepped through the brutality and are working to protect themselves and others. These women not only represent a personal resilience but more importantly, they embody the deepest strength of the human spirit.

“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.”

― Adrienne Rich

In July 2016, the capital airport in South Sudan was targeted during an outbreak of violence. An internally displaced persons camp was temporarily erected in an adjacent location. More than 3500 civilians took shelter at the camp between July and September. Nonviolent Peaceforce regularly patrolled the camp to prevent violence against civilians.

On September 15th, Nonviolent Peaceforce was patrolling the camp, when we were approached by a Nuer man, John.* John was towing a 10-year-old boy who he had found with a group of Nuer children. The children were trying to get him to play but he was unresponsive. Sensing something was wrong, John tried greeting the boy in his native language. Getting no reply, he tried greeting the boy in Dinka and the boy immediately responded.

John realized the boy was in danger as minority Dinka amongst a large Nuer population. Tensions between Dinka and Nuer were extremely high in the capital, after fighting in July killed hundreds of civilians within days. Being a child does not exclude one from being the victim of brutal targeted violence. During South Sudan's civil war, UNICEF has reported boys being castrated and left to bleed to death, girls as young as eight being raped and murdered and children being thrown into burning buildings.

Read more: Lost Boy Brings Unity to Community in South Sudan

By Jiro O'Kada, International Protection Officer for Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan.

The current chapter of my life in South Sudan began with the Nonviolent Peaceforce’s global partnership, a precursor to the current NP Alliance, which connected me through a member group in Japan.
I found an internship opportunity with NP headquarters in Brussels in 2012 through one of NP’s member organizations* in Japan. Before joining the team I had an opportunity to visit Nonviolent Peaceforce’s program in South Sudan, where I learned the practice of unarmed civilian protection (UCP) in the field. This experience provided me with valuable exposure to the many dedicated individuals who are striving for peace.

After this trip, I joined the program management team in Brussels, which supports the operation of country programs worldwide. As a program assistant intern, I learned about NP’s global-scale humanitarian mission first-hand by assisting in tasks such as field to headquarters communication, grant management, and training development for new field staff.

Read more: From Intern to Peacekeeper

As many of you will be seeing in the media, the conflict in South Sudan has once again escalated.

While some call what is happening now in Juba a return to war, what we know from being on the ground is that the violence of war that began in December 2013 has been ongoing. The fight for control, despite the signing of cease fires and peace agreements, has been fought in remote jungles and swamps throughout the young country. For the last few days, the nation’s capital, Juba, has been buffeted by extraordinary violence where the range of stakeholders, party to the peace process, have been engaging in a sustained battle for control of the city.

Read more: South Sudan update: in the face of danger

While international media attention mainly focuses on the brutal civil war in South Sudan, smaller “wars” are being waged across the country that also warrant attention and speak to the need for increased unarmed civilian protection. Nonviolent Peaceforce works in several South Sudanese communities to address local conflicts that have resulted in lives lost and increased violence against women. The inter-communal violence has worsened during the civil war because there is greater access to weapons, reduced resources and less attention to community development. Together, this has resulted in the militarization of localized conflicts.

Amongst the Dinka Agaar – as with many other communities in South Sudan – wealth is measured in cattle. The keeping and protection of cattle is a central concern and traditionally, this responsibility falls to boys/men known as ‘gelweng’. From a young age, families send their sons to live unaccompanied in remote cattle camps which can be home to thousands of cows. At present, one of the largest cattle camps in Western Lakes State – Marialbek – reportedly has more than 100,000 cows. These cows belong to separate families but are all kept together.

Read more: Working to Reduce Violence in Local Communities

Thursday, February 25th, the UN Security General Ban Ki-moon visited the UN Protection of Civilian (POC) Camps and specifically emphasized the need for peace agreements and their implementation in South Sudan. Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) was invited together with other humanitarian actors who are involved in delivering services to the Juba POC camps. The Security General stated that he would do his best to support the peace process being implemented, and he also wanted to thank all the respective agencies providing protection to civilians in those camps.

This visit follows the appointment by Ban Ki-moon of a ‘High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations,’ this past October, which concluded that “Unarmed strategies must be at the forefront of UN efforts to protect civilians. ”

In the picture above you see South Sudan Country Director Aseervatham Florington attending a conference with UN Security General Ban Ki Moon in Juba, South Sudan this past Thursday.

Nonviolent Peaceforce was invited to attend as an organization providing services and protection to internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in the UN Protection of Civilian Camps (POCs).

Despite commitments by the warring parties in South Sudan to implement the peace agreement signed in August 2015, violent conflict continues. After over two years of war, the country’s infrastructure has been left devastated and the people of South Sudan continue to face a humanitarian crisis. The impact of the war on South Sudanese women and girls has been particularly horrific. Amidst the extraordinary rates of forced displacement, pervasive violence and breakdown of rule of law in many location, an estimated 32,000 South Sudanese women and girls are exposed to the risk of sexual violence.

There is a clear correlation between food insecurity, fuel and resource needs and gender-based violence (GBV) in South Sudan (See: South Sudan GBV Cluster, (2014) ‘Between a Rock and a hard place: Why we need to invest in GBV in food crisis? The Link between Food Security and Conflict Related Sexual Violence in South Sudan’). There are consistent and widespread reports of women and girls being raped, abducted and murdered as they leave the relative safety of camps, in order to access water, food, firewood or shelter materials (Alison Giffin et al. “Will they Protect US for the Next 10 Years: Challenges Faced by the UN Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan,” Stimson Center, November 2014 p. 22).

Read more: Women Peacekeeping Teams working to end gender-based violence

borftr2edited“I never thought I would see my children ever again, neither did I think my children were still alive. I am the happiest man in the world and thank you humanitarians for making this possible. I will forever be grateful” – Father in South Sudan.

On 15 December 2013, conflict engulfed South Sudan and the country was split along ethnic lines. In Bor, there were extremely violent clashes in which both Dinka and Nuer civilians were targeted and killed. Large areas of Bor were destroyed and nearly the entire population displaced. A large population of predominately displaced Nuer civilians sought protection in the United Nations base – known now as a Protection of Civilian site (PoC). Since the beginning of the year, Bor Town has witnessed the slow return of displaced Dinka civilians; however, the Nuer population has remained fearful of moving outside the protection site.

Since the conflict began, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) has registered a large number of separated and unaccompanied children in the Bor protection site. Many of these children have been separated from their families and caregivers since the start of the civil war. NP works continuously to reunify these unaccompanied children with their families.

Recently, NP successfully reunified 18 separated and unaccompanied children from the Bor protection site with their parents in Akobo, Jonglei State. This can be a treacherous journey as it requires moving the children through both government and opposition-controlled territories. However, we were able to ensure the reunification ran smoothly, by working closely and coordinating with local authorities, UNICEF, and Save the Children.

Read more: 18 Children Safely Returned to Parents in South Sudan